Following behind Kaelyn, Samantha surveyed the area around and kept her senses sharp. It was rule number one that Kevyn drilled into her head after all. And that one rule was never let your guard down. It was because she neglected that rule that Reuben got the upper hand over her. The princess shook her head. Not this time. Not ever.
She glanced at the other girls who she had recruited. Cathy wasn’t hard to convince; after all, Reuben did gouge out her eye. The two other girls easily switched sides as well. I don’t think Reuben ever knighted them, Samantha thought long and hard about it. After all, knighting them meant that they’ll be forced to serve him. No matter how stupid his command would be, the girls would have to follow it to the letter.
Yet the girls didn’t.
“We’re here,” Abigayle chirped.
Samantha looked up to see a large pyramid shaped building before her. “What… is this?”
“This is the church we all go to here in Machinos. The Church of Deus,” Abigayle explained to the princess. She then noticed Samantha scrunch up her nose. “Is there something wrong?”
Samantha stared at the peculiar structure before her. She hadn’t expected that a church of Deus would look like some sort of geometric shape. Back in Sofiene, the churches had ornate structures. Each building had stained glass windows with an array of rainbow colours shining onto the pearl white marble floors. The princess recalled the pews carved with intricate designs on the handles that allowed many of the devoted to sit.
She pushed the doors open and Abigayle led them inside. Samantha looked around the church to see several wrought iron chandeliers hanging above their heads. Despite the modern taste of Machinos’ fashion and architecture, the churches still retained a lot of its old culture. The pews were still made from wood. Ornate stained glass windows decorated the windows. The symbol of Deus hung at the front with an altar covered with a white linen embroidered cloth.
“I don’t see her.” Kevyn looked around and shook her head. “You sure she stays here?”
Abigayle nodded with a cheery grin. “I’m positive! She recently quit and she’s one of the first that Reuben couldn’t kill!”
“Great, what a wonderful way to remember her.”
“Well, considering the high turnover rate, her survival is a miracle.”
Kevyn pondered for a moment and nodded. “No kidding; the crazy bastard’s willing to kill off his own men save for the Knight Killer.”
Kaelyn nodded. “Although, I’m sure Jeremiah’s feeling it already.”
“The idea that to Reuben, he’s pretty much expendable.”
Samantha looked around the church and raised an eyebrow at the four girls. “Are you sure she’s here? This place looks virtually empty.”
“They’re probably in the cloister of the church.” Abigayle looked at her watch. “It’s about that time.”
“They always hold a prayer vigil for those who have passed away in this week’s Magician Raid.”
Samantha hung her head. Just how many did Reuben kill? All because of the insecurity of being unable to perform magic and their inability to explain it, many innocent people died. She could imagine the kind of torture they were put through. Some probably had their fingernails peeled off. Others had their fingers chopped off. It was a long list of things she could think of.
Suddenly, the doors swung open. Everyone turned around as the wood creaked open with a young woman in a nun habit walking in. Her dusty rose veil covered her long straight black hair and the rest of her habit was in a matching dusty rose colour. Her shoes beneath were a pair of brown cloth shoes with her hands holding an incense lamp. The young woman’s hands were in prayer position as she continued to make her way towards the altar.
“Oh, we have guests.” The nun looked up. “How may I help you?”
Samantha couldn’t believe at the sight of the nun. She looked as young – or probably even younger – than her! The young nun had long black straight hair with her bangs evenly cut above her eyes. Her height strangely reminded her of Beatriz. A small, sad smile curved up her lips. She missed Beatriz already.
“Heya Patrisha!” Abigayle beamed. “How’s the convent life treating ya?”
Patrisha rolled her eyes and dropped her nun veil. “Ugh, everyone’s about peace and love. Not to mention, they’re boring.”
A chuckle bubbled from Abigayle’s throat. “Giving it up?”
“I intend to but I’m not sure when.”
“Surely, I can give you a reason.”
Patrisha frowned for a moment and raised an eyebrow. “What are you saying? No offense but working for Reuben was horrible.”
“No no, you won’t be working for Reuben anymore.” Abigayle waved her hand and dismissed the notion. She then pointed at Samantha. “We need to help her beat Reuben off the throne.”
Patrisha stared straight at Samantha. “Is that so?”
Samantha nodded. “Reuben has my knights and Patrisha, Cathy, and Kaelyn have graciously offered their services to help me get them back.”
The nun glanced at Kevyn. “And her?”
“She wants to pummel him.”
“Well, everyone does. But unfortunately, I cannot help you. Not while I’m still under oath.”
Kevyn scrunched up her nose with a fold of her arms. “Oath of what?”
“The oath of Deus especially if you become a member of the clergy clearly states that you are not to get involved in political fights,” Samantha explained to the dragon-tamer. “But you said you were quitting right?”
“The processing takes years.” Patrisha rolled her eyes with an annoyed snort. “I’m sorry. As much as I’d like to help you, I can’t. Not until I resign.”
However, Samantha noticed a small smirk curve up Kevyn’s lips. “Or until you haven’t been kicked out…”
The princess gawked at the dragon-tamer. “How could you possibly suggest something like that!?”
“I’m just saying that there’s probably a quicker way to do things if you really need her help.”
“I don’t want her to get kicked out! That’ll stain her record! An honourable resignation would work better.”
“That will take days and we don’t have that kind of luxury.”
Despite Samantha’s protests, Patrisha simply shrugged. “I think it’s worth a go.”
Gawking in surprise, Samantha couldn’t believe what she was hearing. In Sofiene, anyone who gets kicked out of any organization would be permanently disgraced! Maybe it just doesn’t work that way here, the princess thought to herself. A sigh bubbled from her throat and looked at the nun. If the nun was okay with that then, there shouldn’t be a problem. Besides, she was running out of time. The idea of prolonging her knights’ torture horrified her.
“Okay,” she sighed in defeat. “How do we get you kicked out?”
Patrisha shrugged. “Simple: get involved in such a big scandal.”
Kevyn smirked and folded her arms. “That can be arranged.”
At the sight of the dragon-tamer’s smirk, a chill ran down Samantha’s spine. She shuddered. What could Kevyn be possibly planning? If it involved explosions then, all the sneaking in would have been for naught. Then again, the princess thought. Kevyn showed more aggression than Brandon and Daniel. If anything, Kevyn would have gotten along with Beatriz. But it was precisely that thought that terrified her. Was Kevyn planning something that involved mass destruction?
“I like the sound of this.” Patrisha grinned. “Lay it on me.”
“If I remember right, the Deusists hate destruction—,” Kevyn began.”
“—Kevyn, we are not burning down Machinos.” Samantha curtly interrupted the dragon-tamer, giving her a withering look. “We are not savages.”
“On whose standards!?”
“Kevyn, the world cannot function on the rules of dragons. Humans have different rules.”
“Ugh, are you fucking kidding me?”
“Kevyn, we can’t just jump in with weapons blazing. We have to do this carefully. He might launch an attack on Sofiene.”
“Not my problem.”
Samantha, sighing in exasperation, rubbed her temples. “Kevyn, please for once – can we try to do it like a normal person instead of just smashing your way through?”
“Yours takes forever.”
“No it doesn’t!”
“I’d like to return the mountains in this millennium!”
The princess exhaled sharply and scratched her head for a bit. How were they going to create a scandal? If anything, she was all about avoiding scandals. A sigh bubbled from her throat as she began pacing around. Kaelyn, Cathy, and Abigayle sat themselves in the pews while Kevyn leaned against one of the stone pillars. Looking up, Samantha saw the speakers hanging at the corner. She remembered how Lenard’s voice seemed to project itself out of the box. But what amazed her more was how quickly the messages transmitted themselves all around the city. In just ten minutes, a contract for her head was broadcasted throughout the city. Suddenly, an idea hit her.
“Let’s use their technology against them!” Samantha clapped her hands and beamed in delight.
Kaelyn raised an eyebrow. “What? You want to broadcast it?”
“Yeah!” The princess grinned and pointed out. “And it’s foolproof! All you guys have to do is make a message meant for Reuben!”
“Like a video,” Cathy asked.
“It’s a compilation of pictures that cause objects to move.”
Samantha nodded. “Does it have sound?”
“Yeap, and I know the perfect person for the job,” Abigayle exclaimed. “All we have to do is sneak into the broadcast tower!”
Kevyn smirked. “That shouldn’t be too hard. All we need to do is take the back way in.”
Samantha nodded. Somehow, she could imagine Brandon and the others talking among the girls. She imagined Beatriz simply ploughing through the front gates. Brandon would try to clean up after her and Daniel would be doing something else. A chuckle bubbled from her throat as the nostalgia hit her. She turned to Patrisha.
“You sure you want to do this,” she asked.
Patrisha, nodding, ripped off her nun veil and grinned. “Ready when you are!”
The princess smiled and turned to the other knights. “We better get moving.”
Mio couldn’t help but be worried.
Because of AK’s recent situation, his friend had been sent into a more dangerous mission. Worst part, he was commanded to not lend any technical support to him. His fingers curled and his hands balled into fists; he hated not knowing where his comrade was. It angered him to no end. A sigh bubbled from his throat as he dropped his head against the headrest.
“Damn, AK – what the fuck is taking you so long?” Mio stared at the blank ceiling above him. “You didn’t normally take this long on a mission.”
Suddenly, he heard a soft rapping on the door. “Come in,” Mio called out.
The door opened to reveal Brian standing at the doorway.
“Hey, heard from AK yet,” Brian asked.
Mio shook his head. “Not ever since the Commander found out that he screwed up his initial mission.”
“Damn, he that mad?”
“Probably. I haven’t heard from AK.”
“When was the last time you heard from him?”
Shrugging, Mio turned back to his computer and typed on the keyboard. “Last time I heard from him,” Mio said with a shake of his head. “He was in Chemia.”
“Well, not really heard but more like last time I checked on him.”
“You were stalking him?”
AK’s technical aide rolled his eyes at his superior. “I had no choice! The Commander literally just pitched him out there, sink or swim!”
“That’s what he gets for failing a mission.” Brian shrugged. “Even if he was adopted by The Commander, he doesn’t get any special treatment. In fact, he probably has it worse off.”
“That’s what gets me worried,” Mio grumbled and slumped on his keyboard, staring at the screen. “You know how reckless he can get if he’s left unsupervised.”
“Mio, he ain’t a kid. He’s not the same four year old boy the Commander found lying in the sand who was all skin and bones.”
“I know but, still!”
Brian shook his head. “You gotta quit mothering the kid. He’ll get used to it.”
“I know but, he’s the first roommate I’ve ever had who hasn’t pissed me off.” Mio exhaled sharply and shook his head. “But come to think of it, where did he come from?”
The squad leader shrugged. “Your question is as good as mine.”
“All we know about him is we found him lying in the dirt.”
“Skin and bones from what I remember.”
“He also had that look.”
“The look of a killer,” Mio replied, shaking his head. “Come to think of it, he had this deep, deep obsession with magic. It wasn’t the ‘I want to learn’ kind of obsession; it was more like, ‘I want to destroy’ kind of obsession.”
Brian pondered for a moment and sat down next to Mio. “Come to think of it, he was always good in killing mages. Before the Executor, The Commander sent him.”
“Yeah, it came to a point that his killing sprees couldn’t be controlled so we sent him to a shrink.”
“Yeah but even the shrink was scared of him. She didn’t want to look into his eyes ever again after.”
Mio nodded before turning to his computer, exploring the database of Militaris. He began searching for the files before typing the name “AK” in the search bar. Much to their surprise, the file name wasn’t found. The technical aide frowned and ran his fingers through his black, buzz-cut and flicked his glasses. Come to think of it, Mio realized. He never did know AK’s real name. All he knew him as was “AK”. Not even the Commander wanted to inform him of what his real name was.
“Tch, obviously it’s going to be filed under his real name.” Mio scowled at the computer and began scrolling down the long list of files. “If I do trial and error, this is going to take forever.”
“I have a heuristic but it might be a long shot,” Brian offered.
“Do you have a picture of him?”
Mio nodded. “Yeah, from our graduation. Give me a sec,” he said while searching through his own personal files. “Here.”
The moment the picture flashed on screen, Mio and Brian saw all of them standing in a row with their uniforms on. All of them kept a stern face as it was military protocol. But both soldiers knew better. The eyes were the gateway to the soul. No matter how cold, emotionless, and dead one can look, an emotion from within would betray the soul via the eyes.
“There.” Mio clicked and dragged a box over his friend’s face.
Brian nodded. “Alright, try using that as a reference to identify the file.”
Nodding and placing the picture into the search bar, Mio let his computer do the searching until he found several files exactly like it. He clicked the right-button on the mouse and searched for the file’s source as it read:
AK – VINCENT, DANIEL (CONFIDENTIAL)
“Daniel… Vincent,” Mio read carefully and double-clicked the folder. “Didn’t know his name sounded that nice…”
Brian shrugged. “Well, not all of us have nice names.”
“Yeah, like seriously, who decides the name Blaskovitch?”
“Have you heard my last name?”
“Yeah, yours is terrible. I mean seriously, what kind of name is Khalakidim?”
Brian shrugged. “It’s called my ancestry from Dharma.”
“I noticed. But seriously, I want to find out who Daniel is.”
“So do I. Time for the moment of truth.”
Mio nodded and double-clicked the folder. Suddenly, the screen went black and flashed a window. On the white window, it asked for an 8-character password. The technical aide frowned. What could be so important in the folder that it required a password? He drummed his fingers against his chin. A sigh escaped his lips. He wasn’t the one who made the system or who managed the system.
Mio raised an eyebrow and rolled away from the keyboard. “Bry, you know who manages the server?”
“I think it’s Jenina. She, Cheryl, and Denise I think.”
“Think we can have them give us access?”
“To the file? I’m sure we can.”
Mio nodded. “Then it’s settled then. We go to the Data Hub and we get ourselves the password.”
“Meanwhile,” Brian added. “I’ll see if I can find a way to contact AK. I have to head out to Chemia anyway.”
Morning dawned on Machinos with Reuben sitting on his throne, drumming his fingers. He licked his lips and stared at the empty hall before him. Ever since he had ascended to the throne, the castle had become more quiet. He didn’t mind it. After all, all the people who claimed to know Machinos best had utterly failed and annoyed him. A chuckle bubbled from his throat. Watching them get thrown to his hounds did amuse him.
He heard a soft rapping on the door. “Come in,” he ordered.
Suddenly, a muscular blonde man with a black trench coat walked in. An eye patch covered his left eye with his blue right eye looking straight back at him. The clicks of his dark grey leather loafers echoed through the empty hallways of the throne room.
“Your Highness,” he bowed.
Reuben chuckled. “What do you have for me, Albert?”
“No, you know who I’m talking about.”
Reuben frowned for a moment before nodding. “Ah, is that so?”
“She’s quite volatile however. We’re still working on her personality.”
“You said she’s made more for infiltration?”
“Yes sir, no one would notice that she is the one who does it.”
The prince of Machinos chuckled. He remembered the other scientist he dealt with. No one could understand the blueprints from Bios. After all, it was bio-organics. It was the thing farthest from mechanisms. If he had gone to Ingeniare, they would have just made a tank. But Bios dabbled into something more dangerous. Something only their rogue and top scientist, Dr. Albert, knew about.
“Perfect, running her against Samantha would be a great test run!” Reuben clapped his hands in delight with a sinister grin curving up his lips. “What exactly did you say she was made of?”
“A human embryo fusion with lysergic acid drawn from ergot fungus – if not for your understanding of chemicals, we would have had quite the problem.”
“That is true. So, I expect the little brat to listen to me.”
Dr. Albert shrugged. “I do hope so. She does have some… attachment issues.”
“Then get rid of it.”
“You better be if you don’t want to die.”
Dr. Albert sighed and turned heel towards the door. “Dr. Bandura will be the one to handle that.”
“Oh? What happened to Watson?”
“Disgraced. Fucked his student and was shoved out of the academia.”
“Ah, the usual. So, he did follow after his father. What was the name of his wife? Rose?”
“Roselia Raynor. Besides, he seemed more interested in animals.”
Reuben chuckled and folded his legs. “But isn’t she one?”
“I wouldn’t say she is,” Albert rebuked the prince. “She isn’t mechanistic enough for Watson.”
The prince of Machinos chuckled. Of course, he thought. Many of the scientists in Machinos believed in one thing: the spirit of mechanism. Everything to them was a machine that made sounds. As the head scientist walked away, Reuben looked out the window in amusement to see the stadium being prepared for combat. Samantha challenged me to fight, he thought to himself. Suddenly, a guffaw burst out of his chest as he broke down laughing.
“Is she an idiot!? Who does she think she is!?” He howled in laughter, breaking down into tears. “Does she actually believe that she can defeat me!? In combat!? She, a little girl, who did nothing but sit in the ivory tower waiting for her prince to come!”
However, a realization sparked in his mind.
She didn’t wait in the ivory tower.
She climbed down the tower and went to save her knights.
Her knights were supposed to save her. Reuben remembered their attempt to infiltrate the castle. Had he not sent Jeremiah there, he could have sworn that things would have gone bad. After all, nobody had expected Samantha to have recruited two monsters. Beatriz Odissea, the girl who could not die and Brandon Hawthorne of the Seven Seas – the two of them had stories of their own.
“Well, I shouldn’t be thinking that hard.” Reuben rolled his eyes, scoffing. “After all, she cannot last that long. She can’t do much. She is still just a princess.”
Or so he wanted to think.
Seeing her on his throne with a confident look – completely unshaken and unafraid – dare he say it, terrified him. He didn’t expect her to survive the raid. He made sure he flushed out even the darkest and dingiest sewers to find out where she was. Unfortunately, he only found a woman with clairvoyance. Useless, he scowled in his mind. He looked at his hand and then looked at the sword that had been sheathed into the armrest. He held the hilt before slowly drawing out a blade filled with gears hidden inside the blades. It was finely crafted out of enchanted mithril with several hidden blades inside it. Whoever was declared the king of Machinos could wield the weapon. A smirk curved up his lips. The sword responded to the blood inside him.
“Unfortunately, I can’t use it completely,” Reuben whispered before shoving the sword back into its sheathe.
The sword of Machinos, the Clockwork Blade, required not only the blood of a royal from Machinos but also magic. His inability to wield magic forever plagued him. Reuben’s lips tightened and his eyebrows furrowed as he slammed his fist against the silver throne. A howl burst from his chest out of his throat; why didn’t he inherit any of the magic? It wasn’t fair!
“Fuck!” Reuben roared and swung his arm out, knocking down the coffee table. “Why not me!?”
Gasps bubbled from his throat as he stared at the marble flooring. Until this day, Hayden still had the power while he didn’t. The thought of him being the weaker one infuriated him. It grinded his insides until the insecurity ripped him apart. While his father gave him everything, his mother did nothing to console him if his father unleashed his rage unto him. He didn’t have it easier.
“One day, I’ll make him pay,” Reuben seethed with rage.
Suddenly, he heard his phone ringing. Reuben snapped out of his rage and went towards his phone. He opened up his Facemash where he saw a video gone viral with Princess Samantha along with a familiar nun.
“Patrisha Ambrose,” Reuben growled and slumped onto his chair. “What is she doing…?”
“I’ve declared my intent to fully support Samantha and her wager against Prince Reuben,” Patrisha began her statement. “Thus, I resign completely as a servant of Deus. Today, I return as Lady Patrisha Ambrose.”
Soon, the comments flooded in. Death threats, hate comments, angry emoticons flooded the live stream.
You bitch, fuck you! I hope Reuben grabs you by the pussy!
I’mma fuck you so bad!
Hope you die, you stupid sugar queen!
Reuben chuckled. At least some of the people supported his rule. However, there were some others who approved of her decision. All of which were swiftly met with trolls flooding their comments as well. The prince watched the interaction but continued to listen to the video.
“Tomorrow, we march on to meet Reuben and his knights. Even if he has the best, we, the former Machinos Gears who have been thrown away on his whim will stand beside Princess Samantha.”
Soon, the number of viewers jumped up from 2,000 to 10,000. More comments rushed in and Reuben deactivated his live streaming. A sigh bubbled from his throat as he leaned against the backrest of the throne. How was he going to deal with this? His eyebrows knit together with his fingers wringing with one another. He had Jeremiah, Beatriz, and now he needed at least three other knights.
“Well, there’s it.” Reuben stood up and began to pace around. “That leaves two more.”
He suddenly stopped in his tracks when he remembered two more people. While they chose to serve in more legislative roles, he remembered the ferocity as combatants. Last he checked, he allowed them to retire from the Machinos Gears for one of them to pursue his studies and the other to take a short hiatus. It was the only two he ever allowed that kind of generosity.
“Antonio and Nellie,” Reuben murmured. A small smirk curved up his lips. “This should be fun.”
Night fell and the moonlight shone through the prison bars. Brandon sat on the ground, wincing from his last beating. He could feel his whole body covered with bruises and whiplashes. But most of all, he remembered the burning feeling at his rectal area. He hissed in pain as his knees trembled, threatening to cave under him.
“Fuck Diedrich,” Brandon hissed and looked at the prison bars. “There’s gotta be a way out of here.”
He remembered the time cannibals tied him and Luke up on one of their misadventures. At that time, he relied on Luke to get him out of situations. His being a Dryad made it easier. He could speak to the elements and pretty soon, the cannibals worshipped both of them as gods.
Wincing in pain, Brandon stood up and looked around for anything he could use. While he didn’t have his gunblades, he certainly had his brains. The sink was there and a toilet. The bed hung against the wall with some chains and Diedrich left his broken dildo behind after their last session. Suddenly, an idea hit him. He glanced at the dildo and grabbed it before jamming down the toilet.
“Alright. Time to make a commotion,” Brandon thought to himself.
He quickly began flushing it again and again. Slowly, the toilet water began to fill the bowl. The pipes beneath him began to slightly rumble as the pirate backed away. Noticing a chained drainage plug in the sink, he ripped it off and began slamming the metal plug against the prison bars.
“Help! It’s flooding in here,” Brandon shouted.
Come on, someone pick up!
“Shut up!” One of the guards snapped. “Nobody needs to hear you!”
You’re gonna want to hear me after I flood this damn place, Brandon growled in his mind. “Can’t you smell the shit floodin’ out here!? It smells!”
Much to Brandon’s relief, the guards finally stormed towards his cell. By then, the toilet had completely overflowed and the water coming out of it was brown with all sorts of things. The suffocating stench of faeces filled the area and urine splattered on the ground. Horrified, the guards quickly ripped his cage door open with the sewer water splashing against their legs.
“Fucking damn it! What is –!” The guard shoved past Brandon.
Before he could reach the spewing toilet, Brandon broke into action. Grabbing the cell guard’s outstretched arm, the pirate yanked it towards him and broke it with his elbow. The cell guard cried out in pain as his companion was dazed by the sudden attack. The pirate wasted no time at all. Within a short span of time, Brandon covered the distance between him and the surprised guard. The moment he reappeared right in the guard’s face, he slammed his palm into the guard’s face. The astonished guard let out a muffled gasp before crashing onto the ground.
“Gotcha!” Brandon straddled him before punching the guard’s Adam’s Apple. While on top of him, he found a key and bolted off the body before slamming the cage door shut.
“Hey,” the guard roared. “Let me out!”
Brandon smirked as he watched the guard slammed his fists against the rusted metal bars. He pulled out the keys and dangled it in front of his face, pulling back his arm every time the guard tried to get it from him. A chuckle bubbled from the pirate’s throat as he pocketed the key and went on his merry way.
“Time to find my weapons,” Brandon whispered and began scouring around. “They better have not used it as a goddamn toothpick.”
He continued walking through the hallway while looking among the prisoners. A lot of them looked a whole lot better off than he did. His clothes were tattered and torn while all of them wore black and white striped jumpsuits. They glared at him and some began grabbing metal mugs and slammed it against the metal rods, causing a clamour. The pirate ignored them and continued to the end of the hallway where he found a large chest. Squatting down to open the lock, he lifted the lid open to find several weapons inside: assault rifles, pistols, taser guns, and other weapons.
“Hmmm,” Brandon pondered for a moment. He plucked out an assault rifle. “Ugh, pure guns. Such a barbaric weapon. I want my gunblades back.”
He pulled out a M45 Assault Rifle and continued making his way down the hallway. Brandon leaned against the wall where he heard loud laughter from the offices behind him.
“I heard there’s gonna be a slaughter fest tomorrow!”
“Yeah, what the fuck was that bitch thinking!? She can’t beat Reuben!”
“I can’t believe we’ll be able to watch her get fucked on live TV!”
Brandon’s blood ran cold. Was this Samantha they were talking about? What was she thinking, he thought. He himself was frozen in aghast. What did she have in mind? She barely knew how to fight! Now she was going to fight head on against Reuben? It didn’t make any sense to him! He pressed his ear closer on the wall.
“Yeah, Reuben don’t need to worry. We have that new Machinos Gear.”
“What was her name? That little brat?”
“Bea, I think. Last I checked, she killed two of the wardens assigned to her.”
Brandon gripped the gun hard. Beatriz became a Machinos Gear! In his book, it was tantamount to mutiny! Did Samantha know? But why would the Dark Knight do that? Then again, Brandon thought. She lived on one rule: survival of the fittest. Along as she had her chance to slaughter people, Beatriz didn’t care who she served. All she wanted was blood and a good fight.
“Tch, I better find Sam. And fast!” Brandon thought to himself and quickly bolted down the hallway.
He climbed up the stairs that lead him up to the reception room of the citadel. Brandon winced at the cold marble that kissed the soles of his feet. A shiver travelled up his spine as he continued making his way through the hallway. He hid behind the banisters as more guards came in. Brandon examined the gun carefully only to frown at its structure.
“Fuck, there’s no silencer on this thing.” Brandon shook his head and spotted the guard. “Well, I could just hit him with the butt end of the gun…”
The moment the guard went past him, Brandon swung out and bludgeoned the guard on the head. He grabbed the pistol from the man’s belt and shot the man at the base of the spine. The man yelped until Brandon bludgeoned him again. As one guard fell unconscious, another one came at him with a shotgun. His lavender eyes narrowed at the guard before he jumped and ducked behind the banister. A hail of bullets screamed towards him as they ricocheted off the banister columns.
“Shit!” He cocked the assault rifle before rising up before firing a few rounds into the guard’s head.
After the stream of bullets buried itself into the guard’s skull, Brandon bolted forward and quickly looted the guard for a knife. A smirk curved up his lips; finally, something more he could use! However, his joy was short-lived. When he heard the footsteps of the other incoming soldiers, he immediately bolted into the other hallway.
“There he is!”
“One of the prisoners escaped!”
Brandon smirked as he darted into another stairway heading down. Ignoring the footsteps of the soldiers, he quickly made his way down the stairs until he found a door. Brandon kicked the door open and slammed the door shut, closing his eyes and breathing heavily. He didn’t expect the guards to catch on that quickly. The pirate looked at the assault rifle in his hand before shaking his head, throwing the gun aside.
“Fuck this.” Brandon shook his head. “You’re the goddamn reason why I nearly got caught.”
The pirate sat in the darkness, trying to calm his breathing. He could feel the cold air around him and soft humming as if there were some machines. Curious, Brandon’s hand pressed against the wall to search for the switch. The moment he found the switch, he flipped it open. As it flipped open, white lights flashed over him and he found tubes standing in a row. Large tubes formed a sort of colonnade with a glowing blue tube in the middle. Wires decorated the floors as Brandon treaded through the area slowly.
“What is this place?” He looked around and inspected the tubes.
His eyes widened when he suddenly saw a familiar body immersed in a tube full of liquid. The body appeared to belong to a male. He had curly blonde hair with puckered pink lips and pale white skin. The body was skinny in build with his long, lanky arms hanging at his side.
“Lenard!” Brandon gasped in astonishment. “What the fuck…?”
He saw stitches lining up on Lenard’s head as he looked down to see some sort of graph. He heard small beeping sounds before continuing his way through. Other people were immersed in the liquid and their soft breathing echoed throughout the laboratory. When he finally approached the central tube, he found a little girl no older than 10 floating inside. She wore a blue dress with a white apron. Her legs were covered with black and grey striped stockings and her feet with belt-buckled, black leather boots. The little girl appeared to be asleep.
“Who are you?” Brandon examined the girl floating inside the tube.
The moment he got close, the sleeping little girl’s eyes snapped open with her lips curving up into an innocently sinister smile.
“You’re mine now.”
Brandon yelped and jumped back, falling on the ground. Her liquid blue eyes bore holes into his soul as he began to crawl back. He quickly gathered himself up and bolted away, throwing himself out of the door.
Samantha sat down on a bed in an inn. A feeling of relief bubbled inside her. The innkeeper gave them the best room and all the accommodations. It helped that she still had some of the money. The rest, she had entrusted to each of her knights. She examined the pendant lying in her hand, remembering the magic she wielded back at Yartengar Mountain Range. A sigh bubbled from her throat. Could she possibly do it again?
“Good thing we’re in a nice inn,” she heard Kevyn say.
Samantha looked back to see Kevyn emerged from the shower with a towel wrapped around her body. Water dripped from her dark auburn hair as she took her seat on the couch.
“Yeah.” The princess nodded. “Thankfully, the innkeeper was nice enough to give us an accommodation.”
“It helped that Kaelyn was a good friend of the innkeeper too.”
“We also paid our dues.”
“So yeah, obviously he would give us a nice room.”
Samantha nodded and looked at the pendant. “Kevyn, may I ask you something?”
“Sure.” Kevyn shrugged and lay flat on the couch. “What is it?”
A particular thing had begun to bug her. It was not just about Reuben but also about her knights. The idea of Beatriz working with Reuben terrified her. That meant that he had a large advantage. Beatriz, no matter how many times someone injured her and no matter how lethal, would not die. She alone could take down a thousand men without breaking a sweat.
“Why would Beatriz betray me like that,” Samantha asked. “Why would she become a Machinos Gear?”
Kevyn shrugged. “Maybe she wanted to go kill people. Besides, a desperate animal will do anything to not stay in a cage.”
“But she could have broken out of the cage.”
“Not if they had the right materials. Even an Accursed like her would have a breaking point.”
“These are people who are cursed to walk the earth due to using a forbidden magic.”
Nodding, the princess resumed to looking back at her pendant and her ring. The jewel of both Sofiene and Azaleth shined before her. Would the powers of two civilizations be powerful enough to bring down someone who lived 400 years ago? She certainly didn’t want to kill Beatriz! Let alone hurt her!
“What do you think Reuben will make us do?” Samantha asked Kevyn. “Do you think he’ll have us fight his own elites?”
“Probably. He might even march on the battlefield himself,” the dragon-tamer added. “The bastard is more of a war freak than anything else.”
“He’ll probably make us fight animals.”
“I’ll castrate him in public. It might help bring down his aggressive nature.”
Samantha gave her a dry laughter. “I don’t think they’ll allow that.”
“I’ll do it as I please. This ain’t no PG; it’s R-18!”
The princess shook her head before dropping onto her bed, lying down to face the ceiling. She pondered on the arrangements. All her knights were missing. And even if she had temporary knights, Beatriz could outpower all of them. Even with Patrisha Ambrose, her magic may not even be enough to put down Beatriz. She drummed her fingers on her belly while humming to herself.
“Lemme guess,” Kevyn said. “You’re trying to find a way to seal Bea?”
Samantha nodded. “Mm hm.”
“Makes sense. She’s the strongest in his roster.”
“Have any plan?”
“I wish I did.” Kevyn shrugged and sighed. “I can try fighting her. But I can’t do a long battle. She’ll win by attrition.”
“Mm hm,” Samantha hummed absent-mindedly. Suddenly, an idea hit her. “Wait! Kevyn, can you fuse elements?”
The dragon-tamer sat up. “What do you mean? You mean imbue weapons with two elements?”
“I can but it depends what element you’re going for.”
Samantha nodded. “How about fire and light?”
“Fire creates light or do you mean the divine light?”
“The divine light.”
“So you’re asking for Divine damage? Well, it’s possible.”
The princess beamed. “Maybe you can fight her! Using that!”
“Holy fire?” Kevyn pondered for a moment, drumming her fingers. “It’s possible although it highly depends on the magic density of Bea herself. If her magic density is much stronger than mine then, obviously – I’m going to get kicked down and my holy-fire magic will be useless.”
“What if I enchant your weapon?” Samantha suggested. “Or maybe have Patrisha enchant it!”
“Do you think it’s going to work?”
“We can only find out.”
Shrugging, the dragon-tamer stood up and walked over to the table to grab a bath robe to wear. “I suppose we could try. Which reminds me, where are the girls?”
Suddenly, the door opened to reveal Kaelyn, Abigayle, Cathy, and Patrisha walking in with some bags full of clothes. Kaelyn dropped her sack on the ground along with the other former members of the Machinos Gears.
“You’re both going to need a change of clothes,” Kaelyn said. She glanced at Samantha. “You stick out too much.” She turned to Kevyn. “Your clothes stink and need to be retired.”
Kevyn’s eyes widened. “What the hell did you do with my clothes!?”
“I threw them out.”
“Why!? I loved those clothes!”
“Don’t worry,” Kaelyn reassured the dragon-tamer. “I found clothes you might like.”
“Fuck, if you make me wear goddamned pink,” Kevyn threatened with a guttural growl. “I’m gonna fucking kick your ass.”
“Relax, dragon, your clothes are black.”
“Good, like the colour of my soul.”
Samantha giggled and went through the clothes, plucking out some pieces of clothing. “How about you guys?”
Cathy nodded. “Don’t worry, we have our own clothes.”
“We’re not the ones without a closet and a sack of clothes.”
“Oh, thank you.”
Examining the clothes, she began to choose one of particular colours. However, she knew that it wouldn’t be practical to wear a dress. From the sack, she found a pair of black leggings and a long purple tunic. The purple tunic had a cold-shoulder design with belle sleeves at the end. She dug deeper into the sack to find a tanned leather cord belt that she could wrap around her waist.
“This is so my style!” Samantha beamed in delight.
Kevyn groaned and turned over, facing the backrest of the couch. “Fuck that, go to sleep.”
Kaelyn shook her head. “You’re not battling in the nude.”
“I want my original clothes back,” Kevyn grumbled.
“They were gross.”
“They were comfy.”
“They were torn.”
“They allowed me to move more.”
Abigayle snickered. “You really think like a guy.”
“It’s not if I think like a guy. It’s called being damn pragmatic,” the dragon-tamer grumbled while glaring at the sack of clothes. “I’m not wearing anything pink or a fucking dress.”
“Relax, I know the style for you. You’re the tank-top type of woman. Rugged, if I should say so myself.” Kaelyn grinned and gave her the sack. “You haven’t even checked the contents yet.”
“Fine,” Kevyn groaned and rolled off the couch.
She then dug through the sack and found clothes she was looking for. Her eyes widened when she found a pair of baggy, black, cargo pants with a water-repellant black vest. Along with it, there was a shadow grey tank top with a black tribal marking of a dragon at the left breast. There were also black fingerless sports gloves inside the sack.
“Damn.” Kevyn grinned. “This is perfect!”
“Told ya,” Kaelyn chuckled. “Now, better find the clothes you’re wearing tomorrow. We’re having our debut tomorrow as Samantha’s knights.”
“I agree,” the princess said and suited up. “We have to make sure we’re prepared.”
“We also brought weapons.” Cathy brought out a sack where she unveiled weapons. “I’m figuring that Reuben’s knights are going to use more advanced weapons. So, we’re going to need an upgrade.”
Samantha looked among the weapons lying on the ground. She spotted a wand with a large orb mounted on top. The princess brushed her fingers against the crystal ball that reflected her image back to her face. The shaft and head was crafted from white wood with the orb made from glass. She could see her own mana swirling around inside.
“Where did you find this? I thought Machinos didn’t support magic!” Samantha stared aghast at the weapon.
Cathy smiled. “Not all of Machinos. There’s a small district hidden that sells magical items. I figured as a sorceress, you’d need it.”
Samantha nodded. “I will for a while. But,” she suddenly conjured a floating fireball in her hand. “It’s not really a need.”
“More or less, it’s just a prop.”
“No, it still has its uses.”
Kevyn pulled out a gauntlet which she fitted on her arm. The moment she pulled a trigger, a blade shot out. Her mouth formed a small ‘o’ with her eyes widening in amazement. She also found some throwing knives inside. Plucking out the throwing knives, she balanced the knife on her fingers.
“I take it they’re well-balanced?” Kaelyn watched Kevyn look at the blades in amusement.
The dragon-tamer nodded. “Yes, yes it is.”
“’Course, me likey.”
Samantha giggled at the sight of Kevyn’s child-like amazement with the knives. “What about you guys?” She looked up at the other girls. “Won’t you have weapons as well?”
Patrisha bent down and picked up an electrical mace. “I have what I need.”
Abigayle pulled out a large gun. “This AK12 will solve all my problems.”
“I have my swords,” Kaelyn said and revealed two arm swords. “I don’t have to worry.”
Cathy revealed some throwing knives and daggers. “It’s okay, I can hold my own.”
The princess beamed in delight at the sight of the women taking up their arms. She saw Kevyn suiting up and attaching all sorts of cases to her. However, she knew that Kevyn didn’t really need weapons. She fought her head on. Kevyn moulded magic and turned it into a weapon, somewhat crafting things out of magic. She sheathed her wand into the belt and plucked out the gems from the pendant and the ring.
“Does anyone know a good jeweller?” Samantha showed them the two jewels. “It’s kind of awkward that I have to wear both—”
The moment she put it in her hand however, the two jewels began to glow. Everyone’s eyes widened when the two gems suddenly just merged together.
“Ah!” Samantha dropped the gem in surprise.
The gem that once was rose quartz vanished along with the amethyst gem of Sofiene. Instead, a golden gem similar to a topaz lay at their feet. The girls stared at the gem on the floor as Samantha bent down to pick it up. She examined the gem in her hand before noticing that the aura inside the gem had changed. It was a larger flame and had a more lively response.
“The hell just happened?” Kevyn examined the gem. “Did it just fuse?”
“I… I think so.” Kaelyn looked closely at the gem. “But… why?”
Samantha frowned. That never happened before. Even if the two artefacts were placed together, the two stones never reacted that way before. She pursed her lips and observed the gem closely. What exactly was the gem? And how did rose pink and violet turn yellow?
“We can figure that out tomorrow.” Kaelyn waved her hand in dismissal. “Right now, we need some sleep.”
“Agreed.” Kevyn dropped onto the bed, turning to face the backrest of the sofa. “Night y’all.”
Samantha laughed softly and shook her head. Always straight to the point, the princess smiled. Looking over her other knights, Samantha slid off her slippers before climbing into bed. She lay her head against the pillow before looking straight up at the ceiling. A sigh bubbled from her throat as she closed her eyes to sleep.
Before she could however, the door suddenly slammed open. All the knights jumped out with their beds. Kevyn summoned streams of blue lightning, Kaelyn drew her twin swords, Abigayle had her assault rifle locked and loaded, and Cathy prepared to throw her knives. Samantha prepared to throw a spell until she saw a haggard black haired male at the door.
“Brandon!” Samantha quickly deactivated her spell and rushed over to him.
The pirate grunted and collapsed with his two gunblades dropping next to him. Samantha narrowly managed to catch him as she skidded on her knees. She could feel the pirate’s body shuddering in her arms as her palms soaked up his sweat. Her eyes widened in astonishment as she noticed the angry red welts covering her knight’s body.
“… Sam,” his voice croaked. “… you’re—”
“—Enough about me,” Samantha quickly ordered. Her eyes glanced over his wounds. “You’re going to need some mending. Fast.”
The princess turned to Kaelyn and Kevyn. “Get Brandon on the bed.” She turned to Cathy. “Cathy, I will need some Lavender Oil and Mint Leaves. Abigayle, get him some new clothes.”
Nodding, the knights sprung into action. Samantha let the girls transfer things around while she racked her memories for good healing spells. She recalled her lessons with Councilman Jun. Each and every wound had a different kind of spell based on degree. She pulled out a notebook she used while in Yartengar Mountain Range and checked for amplification spells. Adrenaline flooded through her as she immediately memorized the spells and their order.
The doors slammed open with Cathy and Abigayle returning. “Here,” Cathy gave her the herbs. “Now what?”
Samantha nodded. “Thanks,” she said and then turned to Kevyn. “Kevyn, tear his shirt open.”
The dragon-tamer gawked. “What the fuck – no!”
“Kevyn, he’s suffering from internal haemorrhaging! If we don’t do this right, he’ll die!”
“Tch! Why didn’t you say so!?”
Kevyn quickly jumped into action and ripped Brandon’s shirt open. Samantha bolted towards the bed and began chanting her spell. She coursed mana into her fingertips, noticing a white glow around her hands.
“Hold him down, it might hurt a bit,” Samantha ordered Kevyn.
“Why can’t I just knock him out?”
“I need him alive! Not dead!”
“He won’t be dead! He’ll be unconscious!”
“Kevyn! Work with me! No time to be a savage!”
The dragon-tamer rolled her eyes and held Brandon’s arms down. Kaelyn pinned his ankles as Samantha began the healing process. As the princess expected, she heard Brandon hiss in pain. But it was unavoidable; she knew that. His muscles and nerves had been torn apart. Mending flesh applied the techniques of sewing but reconstructing muscles and nerves was a whole new story. As is, mending shattered bones took her forever! I can do this, Samantha told herself. She wasn’t the same girl who ran away from Sofiene and left Xychosia.
She let more mana flood into her hands as every nerve and fibre of his muscle mended themselves together. Hearing him hiss in agony was heartbreaking but, she knew she had to do it slowly. Otherwise, she may as well connect the wrong nerve to the wrong limb. She took a deep breath and grabbed the Jasmine flower, continuing the incantation. The flower floated off her hands with the petals breaking apart and turning into dust. The dust drizzled itself on Brandon’s body as his face showed a more relaxed expression.
“Kevyn, I’m going to need an amplifier. I’m running low on mana,” Samantha quickly told her.
The dragon-tamer, nodding, inserted her mana into Samantha’s spell as the healing sped up. A bright light shone out with the insides of Brandon seen past his skin. Samantha beamed in delight and began using it as a guide. One by one, she began to connecting each of the nerves together. The muscles slowly mended up and the bones were whole and in one piece. Finishing up, she sewed back all the flesh wounds before getting the bottle of Lavender Oil and Mint. With a wave of her hand, she drew out all the oil from the Mint leaves before mixing it with the Lavender oil.
“You’re amazing!” Abigayle looked on in astonishment.
“Well, healing magic was easy for me. I never did like hurting people,” Samantha laughed softly.
After that, the light died out and Samantha began placing the Lavender-Mint oil mixture on his joints. When she placed it on, Brandon’s breathing relaxed along with breathing.
“Is he one of yours?” Patrisha raised an eyebrow at the princess.
Samantha nodded. “Mm hm, he’s one of my knights. I’m just wondering how he managed to escape.”
“Same here, Reuben can act like a little bitch if he doesn’t get what he wants,” Kevyn snorted and folded her arms. “I half-expected him to be missing a limb.”
“Now that I can’t grow back,” Samantha remarked ruefully with a shake of her head. “But, let’s not stress him out for now. Let him rest. We can ask him tomorrow morning.”