Labyrinth of Relics
The sunbeams shone through her window with the birds chirping. Sounds of people’s chattering and bustling around echoed past the window along with the rumbling of the flying mechanical beasts. Everything seemed to be a good thing. The flowers bloomed at the window box and the bees took the pollen off it. Everything seemed too good to be true.
However, Samantha knew differently. It was the day Reuben said she would rue the day that she challenged him. She would rue the day she stepped into Machinos. But somehow, his words didn’t trigger anything. Not a single shred or ounce of fear. She felt nothing. In fact, she felt more powerful than ever.
She suited herself up and strapped her sceptre to her side. Samantha tied her hair with a purple strip of cloth she tore from one of the clothes she wore. Tying her hair up into a high ponytail, she looked straight at her reflection in the mirror. However, something seemed different to her. Her eyes looked – dare she say it – hardened. The princess sighed to herself; she may have trained but, was she truly ready to kill?
“Hey,” someone croaked from behind.
Samantha turned around to see Brandon sitting up with bandages covering his lower torso. His forehead was also dressed in bandages and Samantha remembered having Kaelyn dress his legs as well. The princess could clearly see the stress he went through. His eyes had large, black bags under them with the whites of his eyes visibly having a bluish green colour. The baby fat that once clung to his cheeks sank into his face.
“Thanks… for trying to come back,” Brandon hoarsely chuckled. “For a moment there, I thought you left us for good…”
Samantha shook her head. “I could never leave you. Not after all you’ve done.”
“I’m glad you’re still the same Samantha that came from Xychosia. Most people harden when they’ve gone through a traumatic experience.”
“Actually, I think I did change…”
“What do you mean?”
Samantha hung her head. “I’m not an innocent princess anymore. I’ve seen fire, I’ve seen death. So many people died for ideologies that flew out of proportions. Innocents die by the hands of cruel rulers and I’ve been soiled by a prince who didn’t know how to keep his pants on…”
Brandon remained silent.
“But I know one thing,” Samantha continued and looked up. “I’m sick and tired of being discouraged the moment difficulty hits me. It’s not how this world works. And most of all, as your lady,” – the princess declared before creating a fireball in her hand without using any incantation. “I’m supposed to look after you as well.”
When she performed the feat, the pirate chuckled at her. “You did change. But in a good way. You didn’t turn out to be some vengeance hungry woman.”
“Don’t get me wrong. I still want him to pay for what he did.” Samantha shook her head before crushing the fireball in her hand. “But it’s not just for me anymore. It’s for my knights. What kind of queen would I be if I could not protect my own subjects?”
“Wow… what happened to you?”
“What do you mean – what happened?”
“You weren’t this… gutsy before. You usually let Bea solve the problem. With her scythe.”
The princess hung her head. “I cannot rely on Bea forever. If you haven’t noticed, she’s not here.”
“I noticed,” Brandon said.
“If you’re not up to date, it seems she switched sides.”
“And… you’re not upset?”
“Quite the contrary, I’m impressed.”
Brandon gawked at her. “What do you mean? She turned her back on you.”
“I don’t think so.” Samantha shook her head. “Call it wishful thinking but, it’s her way of probably getting close to Reuben before lopping his head off.”
“You trust her that much?”
“I know her personality. She serves no one. There’s no way Reuben would make her bend.”
“And you know this how?”
“He could threaten to kill her but she’s an Accursed anyway so she can’t die.”
“He could give her all the money in the world but what use does an Accursed have with that anyway?”
“And most of all, she hates being dominated.”
The pirate nodded with an acknowledging smile. “Impressive, you know her down to the fibres of her being.”
“I had to,” Samantha added before walking to the table to pick up a cup of tea she previously asked Kevyn to find for her. “After all, if Bea turned on me one day, I had to find a way how to either earn her back or how to kill her.”
Brandon whistled. “That’s kind of harsh.”
“Well, I knew this for a long time. I… I just thought I would never use it.”
“Yeah, having that kind of knowledge about a Dark Knight is dangerous.”
Samantha nodded. “And to think she’s not just any Dark Knight, she’s a Blood Knight and a direct inheritor of the Odissea’s magic. She’s definitely stronger than any Dark Knight in history.”
“Well, save for Julia but Julia Odissea had no inhibitions. Bea at least does.”
“That’s true. Besides, Kevyn taught me a few things in Yartengar Mountains.”
“Oh.” Brandon’s mouth formed a small “o” as he nodded. “Although, what else did Kevyn teach you? To be honest, I’m quite curious.”
Samantha laughed softly. “She taught me a lot of things. And she wasn’t an easy teacher.”
“Is that so?”
“She kicked me into a rock and punched me in the face to start lesson one.”
“Lemme guess – don’t let your guard down?”
“Yeah, that one.”
Brandon chuckled and nodded. “Damn, she must’ve kicked you hard.”
“You have no idea.”
“I’m guessing not even your breasts could withstand the impact.”
“From her kick, I could have sworn she broke by breastbone.”
Brandon visibly shuddered. “Damn, now that is brutal.”
“Well, the whole world won’t pity me the same way the people of Xychosia did,” Samantha admitted ruefully. “Reuben himself proved that. Most of all, he sent a battalion of soldiers to flush me out of the sewers of Machinos and the Yartengar Mountains.”
“I’m guessing he was successful with the sewers?”
“Yes, he killed everyone there. In the Court of Angels, everyone suffered so much. I knew I just had enough of his dirt.”
The pirate chuckled and nodded, with admiration glinting in his lavender eyes. “So, what are you going to do now?”
“In the wise words of Kevyn, I already have a plan.”
Samantha clenched her fists tight. When she looked up, a dark but determined glint shone in her eyes. “It’s exactly as the dragon-tamer said, ’Track him, find him, kill him’.”
Brandon had never expected Samantha to harden up. While a part of him seemed to admire the hardened and bolder princess, something inside him stiffened. And it wasn’t any sensual way but rather, the fear of her possibly taking it too far. If she had become a killer then, there was no turning back. There was no way to wash the blood off her hands. Not even all the perfumes of Zemlya would have washed off the stench of blood.
“I may not know magic but even I know that murder is a violation of nature,” Brandon chuckled softly. “I probably mutilated my soul more times than I could count if I were using magic.”
“That’s only if you use Dark Magic,” Samantha rebuked his words.
The pirate looked up to see Samantha sitting on the chair with her legs crossed.
“The mutilation of the soul is a mystic concept that applies to magic. Whether or not it applies to natural law, I’m not sure.” Samantha placed down the tea cup on the table. “However, I understand. You’re not used to me being assertive especially on taking a life.”
“There’s a difference from being assertive and being completely ruthless,” Brandon pointed out. “The demand for justice can consume you. It’ll turn into vengeance before you know it.”
“That’s if, I allow it.”
“Emotions don’t need permission to change your schema on things.”
Samantha nodded before standing up. “You stay here. You’re on reserve until you can fight properly.”
Brandon raised an eyebrow. “What the hell are you talking about? Reserve? Reserve for what?”
The princess stopped at the door before preparing to make her way out. “A little something that needs settling.”
The door closed behind her with Brandon sitting alone in the room. He didn’t know what to feel. A part of him missed the old naïve and idealistic Samantha. But a part of him knew that whatever happened to them also hardened her. Little events here and there have compiled up together to make one large change on her psyche. It had taken a whole new aspect of her. The aspect of allegedly being assertive – while he didn’t mind her being a little bit more assertive, it was the worry that her ideal might fly out of hand. He had seen it happen. The pirate coven fell twice with that.
“I just hope she knows what she’s doing,” he murmured.
Brandon looked out the window. He could only wonder what happened to Daniel and Beatriz. The Dark Knight sided with Reuben. For what reason, he had no clue. But he didn’t worry about her. It was Daniel he was worried about. He hadn’t heard anything about him. Not even from the guards.
“I wonder where he is,” he thought aloud.
The pirate looked down at his bandaged body. He had only seen himself like this once. It was the time that Luke was the one dressing his wounds. A bittersweet chuckle bubbled from his throat. Luke would sometimes pull his bandages too hard on purpose to make a point. The first time he taught Luke how to dress wounds; the dryad had resorted to using toilet paper.
However, he could see that Samantha may have found a new potential knight.
Kevyn proved herself. The dragon-tamer had skill, he had to admit. She fought all three of them even with Beatriz going with her usual strategy. Even with Daniel shooting at her, she fought all three of them at once. She not only mastered her weapon but made herself into the weapon. He remembered how the electricity covered her limbs and allowed her to uncover inhuman distances. Her reflexes accelerated and the way she fought them seemed as if she knew exactly what they were going to do.
“Damn.” Brandon raked his fingers through his hair and shook his head. “If that was possible then, we’re going to have a problem on our hands.”
He swung his legs off the bed and sat at the edge. Wincing in pain, Brandon pushed himself off the bed before staggering forward. The pirate shut his eyes, waiting for the pain. But much to his surprise, there was none. His eyes snapped open and saw his two feet on the floor without him wincing at anything. She really mended me up, Brandon looked at his whole body. Slowly, he began to remove his bandages and let them fall on the floor. His eyes widened at the sight of his arms completely mended up save for the dark spots of where the wounds used to be.
“It’s not perfect but it works.” Brandon examined the repair work Samantha performed on him. “She definitely got better.”
However, he felt that her sudden increase in her abilities came with a price.
No one wanted to learn the traumatic way. Even he didn’t. And, he never taught Luke that way either. It was what he couldn’t help but wonder: what did Samantha do when she fled to the Yartengar Mountains? Even if he wasn’t a magic-user, he could sense that she had changed. Her personality had become more solemn and less naïve. Her eyes reflected with much more resolve. It wasn’t like one of those moments that when someone pulled off something surprising, her resolve crumbled. This one was different. Her eyes reflected that she was on a mission.
And, she was not to be denied.
Samantha continued on with Kaelyn, Abigayle, Cathy, Patrisha, and Kevyn all assembled outside the inn. She looked back up the window where she saw the room that Brandon was staying in. She heaved with a sigh of relief. She hadn’t expected that kind of speedy recovery. Even for a non-magic wielder like him, she had expected him to be unconscious for another week. But she could sense his worry and concern. His concern that her ideals might swallow her up. But Samantha knew it wasn’t just about her. It was about her knights. No matter the cost, she was going to save them.
“Everyone armed and ready?” Samantha turned around to check on her knights.
Cathy nodded. “I’m ready as I’ll ever be.”
“I’ll manage.” Abigayle revealed her AK12. “Nobody gonna take shit from me!”
Patrisha beamed. “It shouldn’t be hard.”
Kevyn smirked with a fold of her arms. “These knights should be a piece of cake.”
Seeing that her knights were all armed and ready, Samantha continued her way to the stadium. She kept her sceptre attached to her belt and every step reassured her. She could imagine the howls of the crowd, begging for her death. But it didn’t faze her. Reuben wasn’t the worst thing she had come across. Arkamedon had shown far worse; sacrificing his descendants to achieve something that was never his to begin with. And Sofiene, drowning in fire, terrified her more. The soldiers raped and killed women, pillaging the city until Beatriz led her out of the city.
As the princess walked with her knights, Kevyn stopped in her tracks. “You could have healed him completely though.”
Samantha nodded. “I know.”
“So why didn’t you?”
“He’s had enough.”
“You’re releasing him from his services?”
“No, I’m giving him time to rest.”
The dragon-tamer raised an eyebrow. “Really?”
“He’s gone through enough,” Samantha explained. “And even if I did heal him then, it would be physical. I can’t do emotional healing. That’s one of the taboos of magic.”
Cathy shook her head. “He would have been a good addition though.”
“Yes but at one point, he will falter. This wager requires complete victory. I need for us to win.”
“Sure thing, princess.”
Samantha nodded and continued walking. Her eyes rolled at her peripherals to take one last look at where the inn was. As much as she wanted to bring Brandon, she couldn’t. He had every right yet his body was torn in all sorts of places. She could easily heal it now that she had better mastery of her mana. What she didn’t know was whether or not his mentality could handle it. But for now, she had to stay focused. No time to think about Brandon.
“This is for the new Sofiene,” she murmured. Her hands clenched tightly into fists. “No, I want the freedom of my knights. And I’ll do anything to make that happen.”
When she finally neared the stadium, howls and demands echoed within its walls. She and her five knights stood at the entrance. The time of reckoning was near. If anything, she felt a wave of solace wash over her. The fused gems of Azaleth and Sofiene reassured her; she would win.
“Let’s go.” Samantha proceeded on.
Upon entering the stadium, Samantha walked into the sandy battlefield. Reuben stood with five of his own knights while she had hers. However, her heart slightly sank when she saw Beatriz garbed in the red and dark grey colours of Machinos. She took a deep breath and remained calm, keeping a stony expression. Reuben chuckled and extended his arms.
“Welcome to the battlefield, Lady Machinos!” Reuben bowed mockingly to her. “I see you have no intention of negotiating. Can we not talk about this peacefully, my love?”
A shiver travelled up Samantha’s spine. “I’m not your wife. And you lost that after you decided to shame me and my knights,” the princess coldly brushed him off.
“Oh dear, quick to dismiss me so soon?” Reuben pouted and clapped his hands. “Well then, let the battle of the knights begin!”
Samantha recognized Beatriz but not the others. One was wearing a hood and the others were obviously members of the Machinos Gear. However, she felt no fear. She had faith that her knights would win. As she walked away from them, she strode past Cathy, Abigayle, Kaelyn, Patrisha, and Kevyn.
“Damn, so who do we have lined up?”Abigayle looked across the field.
Samantha pointed out. “I can tell Bea’s with them. The other three, I’ve never met but I can feel the murderous intent off them.”
“One of them is the Knight-killer himself, Jeremiah.” Kevyn looked over the princess’s shoulder. “If anyone of us fights him direct combat, it’s going to take a lot.”
“Can you handle him though?”
“I can. But he’s gonna be a pain in the assholes.”
“I really don’t know where you get your way of speaking.”
“I’ve spoken this way for years. The dragons never had a problem with it.”
Samantha shook her head and made her way to the bleachers where the lords and ladies were meant to sit. She saw Reuben take his seat next to her as he folded his arms.
“I see you truly took the challenge. It’s not just big words,” Reuben chuckled at her.
“I don’t make empty threats,” Samantha coolly dismissed him.
“So cold! Who knew you had a cold side to you, Lady Machinos?”
“I’m not cold. I’m being pragmatic and on point.”
Actually, when did I start talking this way?
Samantha took a look at her hands and realized how far she had come. Her time in the Yartengar Mountains clearly changed her. All the memories that unlocked within her changed her behaviour as well. But she couldn’t help but wonder what that large creature was. Asides from Azaleth herself, there was a large white creature that appeared similar to a gargantuan machine.
“What’s the first event?” Samantha asked.
Reuben snapped his fingers.
Suddenly, the stadium began to change. The ground began to rumble as a large tower began to rise. The knights looked up as pathways began to rise. An invisible force-field appeared to guard them away from the audience. All the knights drew their weapons as Reuben stood up and took the microphone.
“Knights! Welcome to the Machinos Stadium! Today, we have our Knights’ Festival,” Reuben declared.
The crowd went wild at his declaration.
“Now, we have our challenger. Please welcome my dear lovely wife – Princess Samantha da Sofiene-Machinos!”
Boos and hisses came from the crowd. However, the princess showed no signs of being deterred. The only thing she cared about was her knights. Even if Kaelyn, Abigayle, Patrisha, and Cathy were temporary, she still cared about their well-being. If it weren’t for them, she wouldn’t have been able to challenge Reuben. She would have still been some rape victim on the street.
“And I, the defending champion, your beloved prince, Prince Reuben Machinos!”
The crowd cheered loudly as Reuben began explaining the events.
“For the first event, they have the Grand Labyrinth. The goal of the knights is to get to the top and obtain the relic of their team. In doing so, they must go through the labyrinth and battle through all sorts of challenges. The only rule? Grab the relic before the other team does!”
No rules, Samantha thought to herself. She looked at the other knights. Kaelyn, Cathy, Abigayle, and Patrisha had morals; it was Kevyn who she knew had an advantage. However, she couldn’t help but wonder about the other contestants. With Beatriz on the other side, the Machinos Gears would have a clear advantage because of Beatriz’s apparent inexhaustibility.
“Alright! May the odds be in your favour,” Reuben declared. “Begin!”
The moment the bell rang, Kevyn nodded to the other knights. “Alright, let’s get moving.”
Nodding, the girls bolted towards the large labyrinth. The dragon-tamer’s eyes surveyed the large labyrinth that floated off the floor. It levitated off the sandy ground with several pieces of debris floating in the air. Her hairs stood on ends at the magnetic fields that seemingly pulled her earrings. Shaking her head, the dragon-tamer pushed further until they entered the labyrinth. However, Kevyn’s ears twitched as she quickly blocked them and sent the other knights crashing into her.
“Hey! What gives?” Patrisha gawked at the dragon-tamer.
The dragon-tamer narrowed her eyes. “There’s something here.”
Bewildered, the girls looked forward and saw a bust of a woman’s head on a roman column moving towards them. Kevyn frowned. Seriously, the dragon-tamer shook her head. They sent a statue to fight them? They gotta be fucking around with me, she scoffed.
“Oh well, it’s just a statue.” Patrisha grinned and began walking forward. “I guess we can just walk along –”
Suddenly, the woman’s mouth opened as the bullet shot through.
“Fuck!” Kevyn grabbed Patrisha out of the way.
“Yipe!” Abigayle jumped out of the way.
As the bullet screamed towards them, Kaelyn and Abigayle hid behind the small crevices in the wall. Kevyn and Patrisha hit the ground while Cathy ducked. The bullet zipped past and dug itself on the wall. As the trail of smoke dissipated past them, Patrisha walked towards the wall and pulled out the bullet.
“Welp, it’s an anti-mage bullet.” Patrisha threw the bullet aside. “It’s meant specifically to kill mages.”
Suddenly, they heard it cock again. “Look out,” Cathy hollered.
The girls ducked and took cover but nothing fired. Shivering, the girls slowly stood up when they found that the bust had not fired out anything. They examined the bust in front of them as Kaelyn frowned.
“It’s like red light/green light.” Kaelyn examined the bust carefully. She turned to the other girls. “I can play bait.”
Cathy blinked. “What do you mean?”
“The statue has a two-second reload time before it blasts us again. It catches up by detecting movement. So, I’ll be the one to move.”
Kevyn smirked. “You sure? That thing has a 2 second reload before it busts our chops.”
“I’ll rely on you guys then,” Kaelyn replied. “I know that I can dodge the bust. But I need you guys to destroy it as it reloads.”
Cathy, Abigayle, Patrisha, and Kevyn drew out their weapons. “Don’t worry,” Abigayle beamed. “You can count on us.”
The dual-sword wielding knight nodded and stepped forward, staring straight at the statue. She exhaled sharply and put her hands up against her cheeks, cupping her mouth.
“Come and get me, boulder face!”
Fair enough, the statue detected her movement and fired a round. As the round flew, Kaelyn waited for the shot to fly until got close enough. With that, she quickly moved aside and let the bullet zoom past her.
“Now,” Kaelyn cried out.
The four other knights zoomed past her with their weapons flying. Kevyn sent her chained blade to wrap around the head, firing its electricity through the metal. Cathy threw a knife and jammed one into its mouth. Patrisha rushed towards it and whacked it straight into the air. As the bust flew straight in the air, Abigayle shot it and ended it with a loud explosion.
“Nice one!” Kaelyn nodded.
Suddenly, they heard the crowd cheer outside.
“Fuck, looks like the other team just went past it,” Kevyn grumbled. She nodded. “Move on!”
Nodding, the five girls continued until they reached another area. Before them, there was a circle of statues forming certain movements. Abigayle searched it around and shrugged.
“Damn, is there nothing to shoot here?” Abigayle threw her hands up in the air out of frustration. “What the hell is this now?”
Kevyn looked at the floor and saw some stone panels on the ground. Bewildered, the dragon-tamer stepped on the ground. Much to her surprise, the plate sank to the ground. Cathy examined the statues forming a half-circle before realizing what they had to do.
“Kevyn! I need you to dance with me!” Cathy quickly grabbed Kevyn’s arm.
The dragon-tamer gawked. “Say what!?”
“You’re fucking insane!”
“Come on, just do it!”
Grumbling, the dragon-tamer followed the knife-thrower. They soon began following the positions. As she took her next position, she extended one arm with her other arm bent back with her in reverse-lunge. Much to her surprise, her foot landed straight on the panel it was meant to land on. Her eyes widened. Cathy was right! It was another puzzle!
“Don’t you see? This is the key to the way out!” Cathy beamed and continued the positions.
“Yeah, I can see what you mean.” Kevyn continued performing the positions.
Finally, they reached the end with both of their fists touching. Suddenly, a podium shot up to reveal a golden relic. At the sight of the relic, Abigayle beamed in delight.
“Finally! The relic!” She jumped after it.
Kevyn grabbed her by the collar. “Hold it! We’re not sure. Don’t just grab it.”
Kaelyn shook her head. “This is too easy. Reuben would have made something more complicated.”
“I agree, he’s a sadist but not a goddamn idiot.”
“Yeah he probably booby-trapped that too.”
Abigayle frowned. “So what? Are we supposed to shoot it?”
“I don’t think so.” Patrisha shook her head. “That’s too easy.”
“There’s something called overthinking,” Cathy reminded the girls.
While the four girls began analyzing it, Kevyn walked towards the egg and looked around the room. She looked carefully at the statues, noticing that all their mouths were open. The dragon-tamer ducked to check the podiums that the statues they were standing on. Nothing particular there, she mused. Her ears twitched however and heard gears. Where’s that coming from, Kevyn searched around.
She continued looking around until realizing that it came from the podium itself. Kevyn took care not to apply heavy pressure and let her mana flow through the podium. Soon, she spotted gears along with other intricate machinery that created a chain reaction. As she followed the path, she found that it was attached to the statues. A frown marred her features. It was obviously a diversion; the only thing probable to do. She raised her blade and shattered the relic in one blow. All four girls yelped as they saw golden shards littering the floor.
“Ah!”Cathy yelped. She stared at Kevyn, bewildered. “Kevyn!”
“What? It was a diversion.” Kevyn shrugged before noticing the door open. “Let’s continue.”
As they moved on to the other room, they found themselves in a plain room. There was no decoration inside. All there was were blank metal panels. Kevyn frowned as the four other girls followed her. Suddenly, they heard something rumbling as it dropped down from the sky. All the girls backed up when a large mechanical creature roared in their face. Its head was shaped similarly to that of a hammerhead shark and had metal hooves. It had four tails with a pair of tusks attached to its cheeks.
“Finally!” Abigayle pointed her gun. “Something I can shoot!”
She pulled the trigger and unleashed a volley of bullets. At the sight of the bullets, the creature roared and charged towards them.
“Split up!” Kevyn leapt out of the way.
The five girls jumped out of the way as the creature slammed its head into the wall. “The fuck is that,” Kevyn gawked at the metal monstrosity.
“It’s a Hammerhead,” Abigayle explained. “It’s made for infantry and cavalry units!”
“Well, I don’t give a damn! It’s trying to kill me,” Kevyn conjured lightning in her hands. “And it’s a fucking machine!”
She unleashed a blue lightning bolt streaming straight at the creature. However, the creature roared and blasted out a magnetic wave from its body. The lightning bolt dissipated and aggravated the creature more. Kaelyn dove in and swung her swords, attacking its legs. However, the Hammerhead attempted to smash her into the wall until Abigayle shot its face. As the bullet exploded in its face, the Hammerhead roared and changed target to Abigayle. The gunner yelped and bolted until Cathy vaulted over it and dug her knife into its neck. As Cathy mounted the creature, the Hammerhead bucked and growled.
“Ahh! Help!” Cathy wailed as she held onto her knives for dear life.
Kevyn dropped down on top of the creature before grabbing Cathy and flinging her off. Keeping her balance, the dragon-tamer grabbed hold of Cathy’s knife and fired all the electricity into it. The Hammerhead shrieked as all the blue electricity sparked and fried its circuits.
“Suck a dick, asshole!” Kevyn fired more electricity.
As the machine began to twitch and crumble, Kevyn leapt off the creature’s back as it exploded. When she landed on the ground, the former members of the Machinos Gears gawked before turning to her.
“I can see why my soldiers are so afraid of you,” Kaelyn said.
“Good ya know,” Kevyn chuckled and sheathed her weapon. “Come on, let’s get moving.”
As they moved on to the next room, they found themselves in a room full of doors and stairs. Some of the stairs went upside down, others were alongside the walls. The paint on the walls reflected a variety of colours as it swirled around them. Kevyn winced and her head began to hurt. The colours blasted her sight with many different hues that she felt her lunch climbing out of her throat.
“Ugh.” Kevyn staggered back and shook her head. “Who’s the fucktard who painted the goddamn room!?”
Kaelyn shook her head. “I don’t know but I don’t like it either.”
“It’s making the door finding confusing.” Cathy winced at the sight of the colours and examined the doors. “I guess one of these doors leads to a shortcut.”
“Well find it fast, I feel like puking.” Kevyn held her urge to throw up.
Abigayle began looking around the room. She checked the stairs with her hands pressing against the stairs. Solid stairs, she frowned. She had half-expected the stairs or the doors to become holographic projections. She frowned for a moment before looking around the area. Abigayle closed her eyes and walked forward carefully. She could feel her footsteps tap on the ground before keeping her hands extended.
“Guys, this room is an optical illusion,” Abigayle explained. “There’s only one door.”
Kaelyn nodded and drew her swords. “Well, let’s try to find out.”
Her swords hummed as she cleaved through one door. With that, the holograph shattered. When the holograph shattered however, electricity burst out and sent a shock up her veins. The general yelped and fell back, feeling a weird tingling feeling in her arms.
“Ow, well that doesn’t work.” Kaelyn shook her head.
“No shit it don’t.” Kevyn rolled her eyes before searching the door and opening it. The moment she did, an angry dungeon worm roared at her as she zapped it to death. “The fuck with that, where the fuck did that come from?”
Cathy shook her head. “Prince Reuben kept a lot of weird pets,” she said before trying to open the door. The moment she did, a large gust of wind knocked her off her feet. The captain yelped and crashed on the ground before the door disappeared. “Owie…”
Abigayle continued walking forward until she felt a cold wind brush against her skin. Her eyes snapped open when she saw a dark blonde girl hovering above her with a sadistic icy blue gaze.
“Hello, bitch,” the girl sneered.
Cathy’s eyes widened. “Beatriz!”
Beatriz dropped down with her scythe swinging towards Abigayle. The admiral drew back and narrowly dodged the curved blade. She jumped back and fired bullets only to have Beatriz cleave right through it. Kevyn, hearing the commotion, launched herself towards the fray before kicking Beatriz in the chest. The dragon-tamer dropped down in front of Abigayle with Beatriz staggering back, coughing.
“Bitch,” Beatriz seethed and raised her scythe. “You’re going to pay for that!”
Kevyn smirked and brandished her double-edged chain sword. “Bring it, tiny!”
An electrifying shriek exploded from Beatriz’s throat. With her scythe swinging, Kevyn quickly picked up her pattern and dodged the incoming strikes. She leapt over and closed in the distance between them. Beatriz’s eyes widened as Kevyn landed a right jab on her cheek. The dark knight spun before Kevyn whirled around and landed another roundhouse kick to her face. Beatriz fell to the floor and Kevyn smirked.
“Is that it? I want my money’s worth,” she goaded.
“Coming back up,” Beatriz roared and gathered herself up.
However, the moment she stood up – Kevyn whirled around and kicked the girl down. Beatriz groaned as she looked at the dragon-tamer’s mocking expression.
“Going back down.”
While Kevyn squared off with Beatriz, Abigayle narrowly dodged the incoming bullet. Her eyes widened as she looked up to see a hooded figure with a sniper-assault rifle. A smirk however curved up her lips as she pointed her assault rifle at the hooded figure.
“Let’s see you nerf this!” Abigayle, grinning, pulled the trigger and let out a large burst of bullets.
The hooded figure silently jumped to and fro from the place before swapping out the sniper-assault rifle for a pair of hand-guns. Noticing the hand-guns, Abigayle rolled out and deflected the incoming bullets with her steel bracers. She looked past the bullets and saw the figure perching on what appeared to be a transparent block.
“Well, well, well.” Abigayle shook her head and looked up at the figure. “So you’re the DPS of the day.”
The figure remained silent.
“What? You not going to talk?”
Suddenly, the figure leapt off the block with both pistols pointed in her face. Abigayle’s eyes widened as the figure suddenly began to speak.
“Die, die, die!” The figure repeatedly pulled the trigger.
Abigayle bolted and dodged the incoming bullets as she used her bracers on both her arms and legs to block them. While the admiral bolted away, Cathy dealt with another member of the Machinos Gear. She was a familiar face; a face she thought had long retired from the Machinos Gear.
“Nellie Preud,” Cathy murmured. “Also known as, the Hypnotist.”
Nellie smiled. “Glad you remember me, Cathy. I didn’t expect you to.”
“I always did. I stayed at least for your 3 year tenure in the Machinos Gears.”
“Well, I’m glad that I’m not one of those forgettable faces.”
How could I forget, Cathy thought to herself. “Why did you return?”
“To the Machinos Gears?”
“Cathy, I never left. I just remained as a reserve and handled the less stressful things.”
Cathy brandished her knives. “I’m sorry but I cannot go easy on you.”
Nellie shook her head. “Oh don’t worry,” she reassured the small girl while bringing out a pendulum. “I have no intention to, either.”
Without any warning, the captain lunged with her knives swinging. Nellie narrowed her eyes and leapt away with her pendulum firing straight at her. Cathy rolled away as the crystal attached to the pendulum changed direction. A homing pendulum, Cathy thought. She remembered why Nellie was increasingly feared. Not only did she have psychic abilities but her weapon itself seemed to “know” its target.
A heat seeker, Cathy ducked as the crystal shot past her. Seeing that it flew past her, Cathy lunged forward towards Nellie. An opening, her mind screamed in delight. As she closed in, Cathy attempted to stab her as Nellie caught her hand and threw it aside. The small girl staggered but used the momentum in attempt to kick her. Jumping back, Nellie pulled back the crystal of her pendulum as it rushed back towards Cathy. Seeing the weapon flying back, Cathy quickly performed a 180-degree split as the crystal narrowly missed her head.
“You’ve grown more acrobatic,” Nellie complimented. She began whirling her pendulum. “However, your body can only go so far.”
Cathy dodged the incoming attempt. “As long as Her Grace requires me to fight,” she declared. “I will use this body as she deems fit for her cause!”
“Oh? Loyal to the bitch of Sofiene?”
“She only gave me one order.”
Nellie looked upon Cathy in confusion as the small girl quickly gathered herself.
“I am to win. No matter the cost, I am to win and offer Reuben’s head to her on a silver platter!”
On Kaelyn’s side, her swords sang as she clashed with a former comrade. Her eyes narrowed at the sight of Jeremiah as he easily entangled her blades with his jacket. She clucked her tongue in annoyance as the sleeve shot out to snag her sword again. However, the general saw this coming and quickly pulled back her blade. She began writing runes on her blade as flames coated her blade.
“Impressive, Zongese magic.” Jeremiah applauded her. “I didn’t expect you to bring Talisman magic to Machinos.”
“Some people are just wired differently,” Kaelyn said before pulling out a strip of paper, wiping it on her blade. The moment she did, her other blade was coated with a cold, blue aura. “I happen to be better at Eastern magic.”
“I can see that.”
“But it’s still doesn’t match up to your knowledge, Knight-killer.”
“Oh you flatter me, good lady! I’m nothing more than a gear in a machine.”
“The typical response of Reuben’s trash. You really ought to think outside of his head.”
Jeremiah chuckled and pulled out two Barrettas. “Well then, shall we dance, general?”
Kaelyn nodded before launching herself at Jeremiah. The bullets from the Barrettas flew towards her as she danced past them. She managed to deflect a few while melting others into ashes. As she closed in on him, her eyes narrowed and she swung her swords. Jeremiah stepped back and ducked, dancing past her swords. It was almost similar to a waltz; Kaelyn pivoted around to lay a blow as Jeremiah ducked and dodged around her attacks.
Tch, Kaelyn felt her frustration boiling. She couldn’t even lay a blow. The jacket billowed to block her attacks even if her blade cut through some of the threads. As the general continued swinging the blades, she had to dodge the incoming bullets. Jeremiah on the other hand continued to dodge even with the blades taking out some strands of his hair.
Patrisha on the other hand dealt with a former Machinos Gear. Antoine Bandura, she thought to herself. Son of one of the head researchers of the Machinos R&D department, he took a different path from his father. Instead of becoming a scientist, he became a warrior. And damn, he was good in what he did. Patrisha remembered him having the highest kills and highest assists in Machinos Gear history. He and Nellie Preud performed a variety of missions which he deemed as “dates”.
“I’m surprised,” Antoine chuckled. “How did you get kicked out of the convent so soon?”
Patrisha shrugged. “I sided with Samantha. That’s pretty much it.”
“Wow, harsh much.”
“Well, they demanded complete loyalty to a moron like Reuben. I found it hard to give.”
“Or was it more that you were simply an angry individual?”
“That’s probably one of the reasons too.”
Antoine chuckled and pointed his blades at her. “Well then, Patrisha – I don’t think I should dilly dally any longer.” He glanced at Nellie, noticing her struggle against Cathy. “I might have to help my dear Nellie against her enemy.”
Patrisha chuckled and revealed her mace, sparking it with electricity. “Sorry, that ain’t going to happen!”
Antoine, at the sight of her bravado, brandished his blades and smirked. “Very well then, come.”
Beyond the labyrinth, people were in awe of the battles. Each clash amazed them. Kevyn countering all of Beatriz’s blows, Kaelyn’s dance with Jeremiah, Cathy’s declaration to Nellie, Abigayle’s shootout with the hooded figure, Patrisha’s battle with Antoine captivated the crowd. Seeing their weapons clash with one another lit the fires of anticipation. The crowd howled for more. They demanded more blood and more fighting. Most of all, they demanded a victor.
Samantha on the other hand clutched the hem of her tunic while watching her knights engage Jeremiah’s knights. She had full faith in her knights; however, it was how the game was run that created her doubts. The fact that the rug could easily be pulled out from under them before they all get tortured – she didn’t want to risk that at all.
“Nervous, my love,” Reuben crooned.
Samantha shook off her nervousness and glared at Reuben. “No, I’m simply wondering how you’re going to cheat.”
“You dare question my honor?”
“I question it because you don’t have any.”
“My, my, what a sharp tongue you have. You learned too much on how to be a wench on the streets.”
Samantha shook her head. “Speaking my mind does not mean I’ve become a wench. It simply means that I’ve learned to think.”
“Impressive,” Reuben chuckled and looked at the screen. “However, you’ve already begun to bore me. All you girls do is nag and talk once you’ve learned how to allegedly think.”
The princess turned away from the prince until she heard a sharp cry of pain. Her eyes widened and the people gasped in surprise. All the knights stopped as well as Beatriz landed on the floor with a loud thud. Her head lifted up as Kevyn stood victorious.
“You can heal flesh wounds and maybe grow back a limb or two. Heck, you can probably mend your bones together.” Kevyn smirked and sheathed her blade. “I wonder though what happens if I shut off your mana circuits. That means you’re pretty much useless, yes?”
Beatriz hissed. “Fucking bitch!”
“Ohh, stop being a goddamn brat. It’s not my fault you don’t think while fighting.”
“Thinking’s for pussies!”
“And so’s lying on the floor and crying like a little shit that you are.”
Beatriz glared daggers at the dragon-tamer. “I will fucking kill you.”
Kevyn, shrugging, turned away and ignored Beatriz’s feral cries before noticing the other knights who were frozen from the defeat. Suddenly, Kevyn rushed forward with her body covered with electricity. Antoine quickly rushed to Nellie’s side while Jeremiah kicked Patrisha away. All knights soon focused their attention on Kevyn, scrambling to take down the dragon-tamer. Despite the incoming knights, Kevyn showed no fear. Instead of charging electricity, the dragon-tamer unleashed a large, roaring blue inferno that encircled everyone including her.
“Are you a retard?” Jeremiah hooted with laughter. “You’ve got some screws loose if you think you can beat us like that!”
Kevyn however didn’t budge. “I didn’t say I’m going to be the one to hand your filthy ass in.”
From the flames, Abigayle, Patrisha, Kaelyn, and Cathy had stood on four different points. Each of them had a knife in their hand which they stabbed in the floor. The moment they did, all of the Machinos knights saw a glyph appearing on the floor. Kaelyn clapped her hands together and shook her head.
“Do you think we were moving mindlessly?” Kaelyn clucked her tongue in annoyance. “Shame, I expected better from you guys.”
Jeremiah tried to remove his foot but found himself glued to the floor. Beatriz struggled and wriggled with her limbs completely paralyzed. Antoine and Nellie couldn’t move either along with the hooded figure. Kaelyn slammed her palms onto the ground and activated the spell. Kevyn quickly jumped out of the way along with the four other knights.
“Now, Kaelyn!” Kevyn tumbled back with the light consuming the knights.
Suddenly, a large white translucent wall of light surrounded the Machinos Gears. Kevyn smirked and stood past the barrier as the knights of Machinos found themselves trapped inside. Patrisha nodded and added her own enchantment to the barrier. Cathy looked at the knights in amusement, shaking her head.
“Well, good luck getting out of that.” Patrisha winked. “You’re going to take some time.”
Nodding, Kevyn and the other knights bolted off to find the relic while leaving the rest of the knights of Machinos behind.
“Shit!” Jeremiah slammed his fists against the white wall. “I didn’t expect the general to be a fucking traitor!”
Antoine shrugged. “Well, we’re kind of a pinch. Not all of us can use magic.”
The Knightkiller let out a flustered noise before turning to Beatriz. “Hey! Make yourself useful! Break the damn barrier.”
Beatriz rolled her eyes nonchalantly and rolled over. “Fuck you, I take orders from no one!”
Furious, Jeremiah kicked Beatriz’s back. The Dark Knight coughed as she tumbled over with Jeremiah’s foot on her temple. He glared at her defiant and uncaring ice blue eyes. She refused to budge; not even with him applying more pressure to her skull. She spat blood from her lips and let out a sinister snicker. A shudder ran down Jeremiah’s spine at the sight of Beatriz’s cruel sneer. As much as he knew how to kill knights, a part of him feared this girl.
“Kill me now and you stupid brats will be stuck here,” Beatriz threatened. “Permanently.”
Jeremiah scoffed. “You can’t even use your magic.”
“Temporarily. But if you would get your fucking foot of my head, I can probably do something about it.”
“Like what? Bash your head through the wall?”
Beatriz snorted in annoyance and shrugged. “Well, you could’ve done it yourself. Aren’t you dumb enough?”
Growling in annoyance, Jeremiah shoved her over and stalked off. The nerve of that cheeky brat, the Knightkiller thought. He stormed off as Beatriz managed to clamber up to her feet. Nellie, Antoine, and the hooded knight watched Beatriz carefully as she walked towards the barrier. Her petite pale hands brushed against the barrier as ancient characters appeared on the wall.
“Well, this is fine work.” Beatriz nodded with a chuckle of amusement. “Whoever performed this spell knew what they were doing. It’s a conjunction spell of rune markings, transmutation, and –”
“Ugh, just get to the bottom of it already,” Nellie groaned. “We don’t have time for you to nerd out over it.”
Beatriz snorted and turned around. “Listen up, toothpick,” the Dark Knight seethed. “I can snap your body like a twig with one kick. The best part is – I won’t feel a single shred of remorse kicking your body and shattering every goddamn bone in your body.”
Even with Beatriz’s menacing stare, Antoine quickly stepped in between the two women. “Just please hurry up. We don’t have time for this.”
The Dark Knight let out a disgruntled snort and shoved Jeremiah aside. “Keep your merry misfits in place and we’ll do just fine.”
Jeremiah shook his head and looked at the hooded figure. The whole time, the figure had said nothing. All he was informed by Reuben was that the hooded figure was going to help them. He may have not been as strong as most but, they gave him a little kick to boost his power. And he saw it. While fighting Abigayle, the Gear kept up with her. A chuckle bubbled from his throat as he patted his shoulder.
“Not a bad run,” Jeremiah chuckled. “I didn’t expect the serum to be that strong.”
The hooded figure remained silent.
Scoffing and rolling his eyes, Jeremiah stalked off and waited for Beatriz to break down the barrier. How did he get involved in this stupid team again? While he didn’t mind Antoine and Nellie, it was Beatriz and the hooded figure that annoyed him. After all, Beatriz refused to take orders from anybody. The hooded figure on the other had remained completely silent. He’s fucking mute, the Knightkiller growled in his mind.
Suddenly, the bell rang and all knights heard the announcement.
“The Knights of Sofiene win!”