Criterion Effect: Norok Chronicles - In Search of Titan's Wings

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Chapter 4

Sublocation - Baldur Castle, Divergence Wings

Innerlocation - Briefing Room

Nice, bright, and early, everyone showed up to the briefing on time. At the head of the table sat King Ziad Ginta. To his right were Eagle, Kaz, and Kurara. To the Elvenkai King’s left were Yoshio and Sunchina, both of who looked tired in comparison to everyone else at the table. “Thank you for coming so early everyone,” Ziad greeted as he stood up, taking a sip of his drink, and looked around the table. “This briefing is about your mission to recover Titan’s Wings.”

The briefing room was rather small compared to the other in the castle. In the center of the room was a large rectangular table that took up most of the space in the room. It was big enough to sit ten people but not big enough for personal space. A control panel was just to the right of everyone’s seat so they could control the holograms as they gave their reports. On the walls were worn out maps hung with care. Towards the back of the room was a single computer terminal for research.

Kurara, by no stretch of the imagination a morning person, yawned as she asked a question for anyone to answer, “Why do we have to have this briefing so early in the morning?”

Yoshio and Sunchina looked at Kurara as if she was out of her mind for asking such a direct question to the King.

“So we can get an early start of course,” Eagle answered, looking the female Genohuman then to Ziad. “If I may…” The Elvenkai King nodded, giving him permission to continue. “Thank you. Like his Highness said, the ultimate goal of your mission to recover Titan’s Wings. First off, this is a Level Four Special Ops Mission, Level Three Void Classification. We received information from one of our contacts in Diverray that an unknown messenger passed through that part of Negito.”

“What’s so special about some random carrier traveling through Diverray?” Kurara asked without thinking as she took a sip of her orange juice.

“Normally nothing, but the destination of the messenger and what he was carrying is the interesting part,” Eagle started. “His destination was Valkyrie Retribution and his package was giving off some serious power readings.”

“Ah,” Kurara nodded, now understanding the issue.

“The first order of business is to get the gear you’re going to need for the mission,” Eagle said he keyed commands to the panel in front of him. As the room darkened, a violet holographic map of Negito materialized at the center of the table. A moment later it zoomed into Divergence Wings and highlighted the route they would take. At the end of the highlighted road was a building circled with a digital window off to the side with various stats of the building. “I have a storage building located a little over 250 miles east of here. Once we get there, I will supply you with everything you’ll need for the mission. From there, we’ll head north east to LowTi to meet up with a contact of mine, Negi Toroc,” An image of Negi bust popped up in his own digital window as the new highlighted route appeared from the building to LowTi. Negi was a middle aged Elvenkai with a single forehead spike with two different color eyes, light grey medium length hair, and dark violet skin. “After I square things away with him, that’s when we part ways and your several weeks of training begins. Once your training is complete, Kaz will lead you east across the Apprentice Plain and meet up with the informant at Diverray.” A picture of a Genohuman with green eyes, tan skin, and black medium length hair appeared in a digital box as the highlighted routed expanded from LowTi to Diverray. “This is Toati and you’ll find him in a bar called FOX. Are there any questions?”

“Where is Archkei Soul?” Kaz asked, hoping his new partner would be there.

“He is dealing with several duties that require his immediate attention,” Ziad answered. “He has been properly briefed and will be ready to leave when you are.”

“This that’s all, we leave in two hours, so get ready,” Eagle add.

As Ziad stood up, everyone followed suit. “Dismissed,” the group bowed and started to exit as he added, “When you are done packing, meet me in the throne room.”

TWO HOUR LATER...

While the three kas were making their way to the throne room, having one of their many typical conversations, they were oblivious to the fact that they were being watched. Yoshio paused midsentence as something started to bug his senses and stopped.

“Why’d you stop?” Sunchina asked as soon as she and Kurara noticed Yoshio wasn’t with them.

“Sshhhh,” Yoshio replied, pointing to one of the pillars across the courtyard. “Let me see one of you throwing knives Kurara,” Yoshio whispered, extending his hand.

“Why?” Kurara asked, confused.

Yoshio looked at her with a soft look. “Do you trust me?”

The Genohuman sighed, “Yes.” She took out one of her knives and handed it to Yoshio.

“Thank you,” he said, taking the blade by the hilt. Placing the blade edge first in his right hand, he swiftly threw it at the pillar he had pointed at. Just before the blade hit the pillar, a black bird flew off into the morning sky.

“Is it just me or did that bird give us a dirty look?” Sunchina asked, perplexed by the situation.

Yoshio and Kurara stood there speechless as Yoshio stretched out with rune to retrieve Kurara’s blade.

“What kind of bird was that?” Kurara asked, taking back her blade.

“Not a clue,” Sunchina admitted, a rare moment for her. “I have a feeling our Kouchou will want to know about this. As far as I know, birds aren’t common in this are.” The three nodded in agreement as they hastened their speed to the throne room.

o0o

In the throne room, Eagle, Kaz, and Ziad were having a conversation of their own; Soul was still off tending to those duties only he could fulfill. With a loud crash, the doors to the room opened, causing the three to look in the direction of the noise to see who was in such a hurry. As it turned out and not to any surprise of Eagle or Kaz, it was their kas. When they reach a distance where he didn’t have to yell, Kaz asked, “Where’s the fire you three?”

Yoshio took a deep breath before he answered his sensei. “We were being watched on our way over here and I don’t mean by the guards. Although I’m pretty sure they were getting a good laugh at our expense.” Taking another deep breath, he felt a sudden pain in his right arm. Looking to his right, he saw Sunchina with her arms folded. “And what was that for Aya?”

Seeing this was going nowhere good fast, Eagle, pretty sure Ziad didn’t want his throne room turned into rumble, intervened. “Care to elaborate Yoshio?”

Yoshio looked at Sunchina more a moment longer then turned to the Human. “We were being watched by a black bird with a really long tail and a multi colored crest. I got a really bad feeling from it. And I don’t mean the bad feeling you get from getting caught. I mean the bad feeling you get when you walk into a situation you know you aren’t supposed to and something bad is really going to happen.”

“Anything else,” Eagle pressed, barely keeping up with Yoshio talking fast. In the back of his mind he was hoping he was wrong but he needed for information about the bird.

None of the kas answered at first but then Kurara hesitated, “Yes…”

“Yes Kurara?” Eagle asked while giving her an encouraging look.

Kurara looked at her classmates, who nodded, then back to Eagle. “I could make out a weird pendant around its neck. I couldn’t make out the shape from the distance we were at but it was red.”

With that, Eagle’s suspicion was heightened and because of the look on his face, Kaz felt compelled ask, “I know that look Eagle. What’s up?”

“Remember Terkava Falls five or so years back?” Eagle replied, trying not to give away too much.

“Of course. It’s kind of hard to forget that event. What about it?”

“I know this is a stretch but do you remember the building we found about a half a mile away from the falls, the odd symbol on the side of the wall, and the bird that flew away as soon as we got there?”

Kaz racked his brain a bit to remember those specific details. “Wasn’t that were we fought-”

“Nail on the head,” Eagle confirmed, interrupting him. Five years ago his team took part in his worst mission yet. Everything about that mission still haunted him to this day. Hell, it was the mission that got his crew disbanded and him a desk job.

“Wait a sec.,” Yoshio said confused. “Who and what event are you talking about?”

Eagle and Kaz looked at each other, then to Ziad who shook his head wishing to stay out of it, and then back at each other as if they had said too much already. “We’ll tell you one of these days,” Kaz answered, patting the Elvenkai on the shoulder.

“We better get going,” Eagle commented, eager to get a move on, for more reasons than one. “Especially if we want to avoid a conflict or worse so early in our travels,” getting up, he made his way to the south end of the hall and motioned the others follow.

Ziad had purposely stayed quiet to see how things were going to unfold, causing him to think about the past. “Good luck and may Titan protect and speed you on your way,” the door shut behind the group before anyone could respond. “For if you fail, we shall fall,” he whispered to himself.

o0o

The group walked quickly to the speeder bike hanger. “Not that I don’t enjoy this place but why don’t we use the transportation spell to get to your storage house?” Yoshio asked eagerly.

The young ka’s question had caused Eagle and Kaz to smile. “Because, that spell is supposed to be long forgotten and we only use it in dire situation and only as a last resort. This mission, my young ka, although important, is not dire,” Kaz answered without looking back.

“Then why did we use it to get here?” Kurara asked in confusion.

Kaz smiled as he looked at Eagle. “Yes Eagle, why did we use it to get here?”

Eagle threw him a look before he answered. “We used the spell Kurara, because when the King calls, you use your fastest means to get there.”

Still confused, Kurara didn’t bother to press the subject.

Reaching the hanger, Eagle keyed in a code and a few seconds later, the two large hanger doors opened, revealing a hanger full of different types of military vehicles, although primarily speeders. “I assume you three can drive these?” Eagle asked as he turned around and looked at the kas, who were standing there speechless.

“You mean we actually get to drive these things?” Yoshio asked, overly excited. While they did learn to drive different types of vehicles, they hadn’t had too much time on them.

“Yes Sir,” Sunchina answered, wanting to hit Yoshio once again but refrained herself. “But I do have a question. Why are we taking these slow speeders when we could take one of the transport ships?”

“For two simple reasons,” Eagle said, picking out his speeder. “One, the main power is out so there is no way to release them from their docks. Two, where is the fun in that? Half the joy in a journey is the traveling.”

Sunchina had no idea what to say.

“Now that that’s settled, pick a bike and stash your gear.” While there were several different types to choose from, they simply chose the closest one to them. Entering their speeders, they entered in the command codes Eagle gave them and the engines roared to life. They traveled from the hanger to the eastern gate at a slow pace but once they exited, the opened the taps and pushed the speeders to their limits. By midday they had reach the three quarter mark of their journey to Eagle’s storage house and stopped for lunch. An hour later they were on the road again.

After a while on the road, Yoshio started to sense something just outside the range of his speeder’s sensors. Not sure what to make of it, he passed the other to the right side of Eagle, who was on the watchful side.

“What’s on your mind Yoshio?” Eagle asked as he glanced over to the young Elvenkai.

He hesitated at first but finally said, “I’m not exactly sure. It’s probably nothings but I think we’re being followed.”

Eagle smiled, glad to see Yoshio’s senses sharpening. “It’s defiantly not nothing,” Eagle confirmed. “We are being followed.”

“How long were you going to wait to tell us? And how long until you put your plan into action?” the Elvenkai asked eagerly.

“Seeing how they have only been following us for about ten minutes, the plan is a work in progress but I do have something in mind,” Eagle answered. But before he could put his idea into action, bright flashes caught his right eye.

Not sure what to make of it, he signaled the group to stop to be on the safe side. Getting off his bike, he summoned his liteBlade from his bracer, and activated it as he walked towards the tree line. “Get ready guys. I don’t want to be caught off guard this early on.”

The flashes stopped just as suddenly as they had started followed by a bike roaring out of the tree line, straight for them. Using rune to enhance his vision, Eagle focused on the driver. Smiling at who it was, he deactivated his weapon and put it away.

At the last possible second, the bike swerved to the side and came to a stop. “What’s up guys?” the blue Aeronok asked, getting off his bike.

“Soul,” the Human greeted, extending his hand. “It’s about time you showed up. What was that all about?” Eagle asked, pointing to the trees behind him.

“I’m fine. Thanks for asking,” Soul answered sarcastically, releasing the Human’s hand. “That…that was nothing. Just a few bakas who lost their way.”

“That’s what you get for being late.”

“A,” Soul started, pointing a finger in the Human’s face. “I was doing things I needed to get done before I left and B, you left without me. What’s up with that my friend?”

Kaz couldn’t help but smile as he walked towards the Aeronok, “Glad you were able to catch up. The more the merrier or so the saying goes. I thought you weren’t going to make it for a while.”

“You know how duty is at the castle,” Soul joked. “They give you a ton of small assignments and expect you to get them all done within an hour.” Looking at the kids, he waved before he continued. “If you guys don’t mind for company on this adventure, I have a friend in Jordava who would be a great asset. The village is actually on the way,” the Aeronok offered, knowing that on a mission like this, the more assets they had they better.

“Is this friend of yours a good fighter? Can he even be trusted for that matter?” Eagle asked, getting straight to the point. He knew Soul was just trying to help but at the same time, he had to protect his group.

The Archkei stood his ground, looking Eagle in the eyes as he answered, “Tyri may be a mercenary but his a loyal friend who has never failed me. I trust him with my life and is more than a capable fighter.”

“Just making sure my friend,” Eagle said, changing his tone from serious to relaxing. “Let’s go pick up your friend,” he said, placing a hand on the Aeronok’s shoulder.

“Thanks,” the Archkei said with a nod.

Making his way back to his bike, Kaz called after him. “Hold up Eagle.” Reaching the Human, he continued with a puzzled look on his face. “What’s Eagle? Is there a problem with Soul?”

“Nothing in particular Kaz,” the Human answered, prepping his bike to ride again. “I’m just keeping the safety of the group in mind.”

Kaz looked unconvinced as Eagle got on the bike. Not wanting to press the issue any further, he nodded and made his way to his bike.

Letting the Human and Genohuman talk, Soul grabbed something out of his bike’s pouches, and made his way to the three students. “How’s it going you three?” he asked but was greeted with silence. “Archkei Soul Weston. We met briefly last night. I never did congratulate you three for winning that tournament did I?” the three looked at the Aeronok and shook their heads. “Well congrats!”

The group smiled. “Thanks Soul. Did you get to see it?” Yoshio asked.

“No. Not this year. Usually I go there every year to see it live but this year I was stuck with duties I couldn’t escape.” The Aeronok answered as he lifted his right arm.

“That sucks,” Kurara said supportively.

“Yah, nah,” Soul said laughed. “What sucked more than missing the tournament was how long my duties took. I did get to catch some of it on the holo-media. Anyways, I wanted to give these to you guys at the castle but I didn’t have them on me at the time,” Opening his hand, he reviled three objects wrapped in individual cloths.

Yoshio took the items from the Aeronok’s hand, handed the other two to Sunchina and then looked at his. Unwrapping it, Yoshio almost dropped it. In his hands was a well-crafted, curved blade at forty-five degrees, with an elaborate hilt and sheath. Taking it out of its sheath, he looked at the shiny blade and saw marking going up. On the side facing Yoshio, written in Seikai was DIVERGENCE WINGS, and on the other side were HONOR, COURAGE, and INTEGRITY. The young male Elvenkai smiled as he put the dagger, which was better for back slashes than anything else, back into its sheath. “Thank you so muck Soul. Aren’t these daggers reserved for the rank of Archkei or above in the Divergence Wings’ Military Order?”

“Why do you ask?” Soul question with a nod, not sure what the kid was getting at.

“Well, I was just wondering why you would give us, mere kas, something reserved for the officers in the military,” Yoshio answered, as he clipped the sheath to the back of his belt.

“Yeah,” Sunchina chimed it. “I’m not one to question gifts but at the same time, Yoshio is right. We are only kas after all.”

“Do I really need a reason beyond a congratulatory gift?” Soul asked, confused as to why they were making such a big fuss over such a small thing.” While it was true that that particular dagger was reserved for the officers of the Divergence’s military, there were special circumstances where they could be given to non-military.

“Yes,” Yoshio, Sunchina, and Kurara answered in unison after looking at each other.

“Look. I gave you guys the daggers because you’re the first Year Four kas to come in the top three spots in that tournament in a long, long time. Not to mention the fact that you’re going on this very difficult and dangerous mission. So here I thought you three should get something special, that’s all.” The Archkei Aeronok asked, looking at the three, to Yoshio in particular. “You should be honored, not many people outside the military get one of those.”

“Well thank you Soul,” Kurara said with a bow, giving Sunchina and Yoshio a weird look.

A moment later, Kaz walked up to them, “Alright you guys, are you ready to head out?”

The kas put their new weapons away and got on their bikes. “Yep,” Sunchina answered for the three.

Kaz nodded to Soul as he turned to his bike.

30 MINUTES LATER...

As the group of five speeders approached the village of Jordava, a medium sized village with three tiers, they were troubled by what they saw, several huge columns of thick black smoke. Without warning, Soul accelerated his speeder and raced towards the village. Reaching the outerrim of the village, he slowed his bike to make his way through the carnage torn streets, devastated at what he saw. Building and structures were either on fire, destroyed, or partially standing, and the people weren’t much better, what was left of them anyways. Whoever or whatever had attacked the village was thorough and didn’t leave a single person alive, which was difficult considering the dense population of at least ten thousand residences.

While Soul slowly made his way thought the outerrim of the village, the rest of the group caught up. They were just as devastated at the scene as the Archkei Aeronok was. Not waiting for them, he made his way into the second tier of the village.

As the Aeronok stopped his bike to look around, Eagle pulled up next to him. “Who do you think did this?” Eagle asked, not sure the last time he saw destruction on this scale.

The Aeronok turned to look at the Human but instead of saying anything, he started his bike and continued to make his way slowly to the center of the village, which, remarkably, was in a lot better shape than the rest of the village but still damaged or on fire. Why would someone do this to Jordava of all places? Jordava is just a market village, a bigger than average market village, but a village market none the least. Market villages have no value to any other regions in Negito, Soul thought to himself, still unable to comprehend the state of the village. As he arrived at the mayor’s building and turned his bike off, Soul heard a bike approach.

“Did you find any survivors?” Soul asked, not turning around, already knowing it was the Human.

“No. And from what’s left of the village, it didn’t stand a chance to begin with against whatever force did this.”

“And who in The Three Realms would that be Eagle?!” Soul demanded as he raised his voice while getting off his back and turning to face his human friend.

“I honestly don’t know,” Eagle answered, sincerely wishing he could give his wounded friend the answers he needed.

Expected that much, Soul turned away and made his way into to the mayor’s building. He wasn’t sure why exactly he was drawn to the mayor’s building but as soon as he walked in, an out of place shiny object immediately caught his eye and he knew he was in the right place. The Aeronok walked across the half destroyed room, ignoring everything else. When he got to the secretaries desk, he saw an oddly shaped blade through the center of a note. Pulling the blade out of it and began to read:

(Soul my old friend, this is

what happens when you cross

people you’re not supposed to cross.

I didn’t enjoy doing this but you

brought this on yourself. Revenge

is a pain and cruel isn’t it? Don’t

cross the wrong people again. This

was just a warning. Back off,

for your sake if nothing else,)

Extremely pissed off, Soul crumpled the note into a tiny ball, threw it, and cast a simple fire spell, causing the note to burst into flames, and as it landed on the floor, the only thing that remained was a small pile of ash.

Eagle strolled in just as the note caught fire and landed on the floor. A moment later, Soul tossed him the blade with no warning. Caught off guard but still able to catch the blade with no problem, Eagle asked, “What’s…”

“You tell me,” Soul interrupted. “I can’t make out the inscription or even tell what type of blade that is.”

“What did the note say?” Eagle asked as he examined the blade thoroughly.

“I’ll tell you as soon as you tell me what type of blade that is,” the Aeronok replied sternly.

“Well, for starters, it’s a very rare dagger known as a Phantom Shirki Blade. They were first introduced during the first Dark Era and commonly used in the Medieval Era when our ancestors were hunting down the ancient dragons known as Tatsu and the Nelvika.” Turning over the blade, he looked at the inscription and frowned, “Good news, bad news.” The Archkei gave him a bland look as if that didn’t matter. “Good news is I can read the inscription and I know who did this. That band new is who did this.”

“And who the hell would that be?!”

“Two crews of assassins for hire. The assassins aren’t a random group of assassins however, and they aren’t to be taken lightly. They are known as the Yo Yin Crew and the In Yang Crew.”

“Figures,” Soul said disgusted. He can’t every remember having a direct confrontation with them but he had been around long enough to know they were bad news.

“The leader of the Yo Yin Crew is Human by the name of Freyr Kugiahma, although everyone calls him Boss. You’ve actually met him in battle briefly about five years back. Since then, he’s trained a group of newbies and experienced assassins. They now have quite the reputation. The other crew is led by this twin sister Freya Kugiahma, both of whom are Assassins of Tatsu.”

“You sure know a lot about them. Friends of yours?”

“You could say that,” Eagle said with a laugh. “More like professional nemesis. When I was with the Order’s various Elite ops groups, I ran into their crews more than I would like. Since then, I’ve made it my business to keep tabs on them.”

“Still doesn’t explain why they did this though. The note said I crossed someone and something about revenge but I haven’t done anything extreme in over five years.”

“That may be true but what if this has something to do with the events when you were a part of the Ginta Squad?” Eagle suggested.

“Like that helps,” Soul scoffed. “I was barely a part of that.”

“Be that as it may, but in that short time, we did a lot of things,” Eagle reminded him.

Soul hated thinking about his time in the Royal Special Ops and changed the subject. “We better get going if we want to make it to the storage building in time.”

“Are you sure? We…” Eagle was about to press but the expression on his friend’s face told him it was time to go. He tossed the blade back to Soul, “Keep this until we get to my place. I’ll brief the rest about it when we get there.”

Soul glared at him as he caught it. “Let’s go.”

OUTERRIM OF JORDAVA VILLAGE…

As Eagle and Soul rode their way back to the outerrim of the village, Yoshio, Sunchina, Kurara, and Kaz sat on their bikes at the east entrance, watching out for signs of anyone or anything.

“So, who do you think did this?” Kurara asked as she looked around at that wreckage, trying but failing to fully grasp that someone could actually do this in this day and age. She had studied accounts of this magnitude at the academy for some of her classes but this is the first time she had ever seen something like this in person and she could barely keep it all in.

“Better yet, who on Negito has the power to do this much damage and no one know about it?” Sunchina asked, just as lost and devastated as everyone else.

“I don’t know what to tell you. It’s been a while since I’ve been chasing bad guys. Hopefully Eagle and Soul found a clue,” Kaz answered as the wind picked up, blowing leaves past them.

Looking west towards the setting suns, Yoshio spotted something interesting. It was, at least as far as he could tell, a normal sevka sword but the way one of the suns hit it, it turned into a nice picture as butterfly landed on the top of the hilt. In the midst of all the destruction, it was nice to see something beautiful. As he stood up to get a closer, Sunchina came up behind him. “Whatcha looking at Yosh?”

“The scenery,” Yoshio answered, not looking back at the female Elvenkai.

Sunchina looked in the same direction and immediately spotted the sword. “Nice, but it’s just a sword and a butterfly.”

Yoshio looked at Sunchina with disbelief. “Not the point.

“Then explain it to me,” Sunchina demanded, placing her hands on her hips. “’Cause obviously I’m missing something.”

“I shouldn’t have to tell you Aya.” A moment later, Yoshio felt a sharp pain on the back of his head. “What did you do that for?” Yoshio demanded as he turned to fully face Sunchina.

“Will you two stop it,” Kurara interrupted. “How can you behave like that when we are in the midst of all this destruction and loss of life? It’s amazing the academy loves you considering you two act like children all the time.”

“What do you expect,” Yoshio protested, pointing a finger at Sunchina. “She started it.”

“I don’t care,” Kurara pressed, catching the two Elvenkai off guard for once.

Before Kurara could continue, Kaz interrupted them, “Guys, they’re back.” He pointed to where they were coming from. “Stop fighting.”

“Hai Sensei,” the two Elvenkai said in unison as they looked away from each other, smirked, and then walked to their bikes.

“Hey guys, what’s up?” Eagle asked as he and Soul pulled up.

“Oh, just the usual,” Kurara answered with one of those looks on her face that said she wished her best friends would grow up for once.

“That bad huh,” the Human asked with a laugh. “Well if you guys are ready, we’re leaving.”

“Already?’ Kurara asked, somewhat disappointed. “Any survivors?” the Aeronok shook his head. “Oh.”

“Yeah. We need to leave now in order to make it to my storage building by nightfall. I alerted Ziad of the situation and he’s send the military to secure what’s left of the village. It’s the only thing we can do at this point.” Eagle stated.

“As much as I want to search for hour for survivors, from what we saw, nothing could have survived the attack,” Soul said, just as disappointed as the young Genohuman. “If you could even call it that.”

“We did find something but I’ll explain once we get to my place,” Eagle added.

“Then let’s get going,” Kaz said as he turned on his bike. With the group ready, they continued their journey east to the storage house. As they left the village, Yoshio started to see more and more swords and made a mental note in the back of his mind to bring it up later. Just to be on the safe side, he launched a small drone to take aerial pictures.

TWO HOURS LATER...

With the suns setting into their final phase, the group finally arrived at Eagle’s storage building. While they approached it, Yoshio stopped his bike and just stared at it, not sure what to make of it. “Is there a problem Yoshio?” Eagle asked, not sure what was going through the young Elvenkai’s mind.

“Not really. Just, well, what happened to his place Eagle?” the girls couldn’t help but snicker as Yoshio was making a fuss over the look of the building.

“I was going for the run down look,” Eagle answered as he looked at his building then back to Yoshio. “What? Don’t like it?”

“That’s not it. I just wasn’t… oh what am I trying to say…”

“I think what the baka is trying to say,” Sunchina cut it, giving Yoshio a sharp look. “It’s different than he was expecting.”

“Don’t be fooled by the exterior Yoshio. Inside, the building is decked out with the latest and greatest tech from the Order as well as the NX Corp. Now get past the looks ‘cause this is where we’re staying for the night,” he motioned them to follow him to the side of the building.

“Where are we going?” Kurara asked, not sure why they couldn’t leave the bikes out front.

“To the garage in the back. Like I said, there’s a reason why this place looks the way it does. Leaving our bikes out in the open is just asking for unwanted trouble,” Eagle answered as he started moving his bike towards the right side of the building. The rest followed suit.

Reaching the right side of the building, which looked just like the front, except for the garage door had vines all over it and no obvious way of opening it. Pressing a button on this bike, the door started to lift and few minutes later, the bikes were stored with the door closed. After Eagle showed them around, including where their room where for the evening, they met in the common room, “So, what do you guys think?”

“Better on the inside then on the outside,” Yoshio answered honestly. “So who’s got the first watch,” Yoshio asked excitedly, hoping he would get a chance to pull security.

“Not you,” Eagle replied. “That’s between Soul, Kaz, and myself. You guys need your sleep. Kaz and Soul nodded in agreement.

“No fair,” Yoshio protested as he crossed his arms, leaned back in his chair, and looked away. “What’s the point of training if we don’t get to put into action?”

“I see your point of view but in this case, what I say goes. Deal with it,” Eagle countered.

“I’ll take the first watch,” Soul offered as he got up. “I’m not tired plus I need to take my mind off a few things.”

Eagle nodded in agreement and Soul made his way past Eagle to his gear; custom bow compatible with Natural Force energy, custom Phantom Wing dagger, and his Archkei of the Guard heavy blade. He may have been Archkei of the guard but he wasn’t one for swords. He had always preferred distance, which, over time, made his an extremely effective archer and unintentionally, a leader. As he had his way to the roof, the human continued to talk.

“Are you good with the second shift?” Eagle asked, looking to Kaz who was taking a sip of his drink.

“Yeah, that’s fine,” Kaz nodded, dreading the thought of pulling security at all.

“So, what did you and Soul find while you were in the village?” Yoshio asked, quickly moving on to the next topic on his mind.

“Ah. Thanks for reminding me,” Eagle said, looking to the Aeronok, who was on his way out. “Hey Soul, do you have that blade on you?”

Soul stopped and padded his pockets as he turned around. “Finally feeling it, he answered, “Yeah. Here.” The Aeronok tossed the blade to the Human who guided it to the small table in front of him using rune.

“Thanks,” Eagle said, turning back to Kaz and his kas.

The archkei grunted as he made continued on his way.

“Now, which one of you three kas can tell me what type of blade this is?”

Yoshio was the first to take the blade and examine it. Not having the slightest clue, he passed it to Sunchina, who took it with a look of interest.

“This looks very familiar,” Sunchina finally said. “I’m not even going to guess at the writing but I know I’ve see this type of blade somewhere.” She looked at it a moment longer then passed it the Kurara.

Kurara took one glance at it then laughed, immediately recognizing the type of blade and the language.

“Care to share what’s so funny?” Sunchina asked, very confused.

“The fact that for once, the two might titans of Year Four have no answer,” Sunchina replied, giggling.

“And you do?” Sunchina scoffed, folding her arms.

“Yes,” the Genohuman Hime answered, still giggling over the situation.

As much as Kaz enjoyed seeing Kurara ahead for once, he knew the conversation was only going to go in circles. “You might as well put them out of their misery Kurara.”

“But Sensei,” Kurara protested, giving her sensei puppy eyes.

Kaz returned with a stern look.

“Fine,” Kurara said as she looked back at the blade. “Grandpa used to tell me all sorts of stories from history. He was very through but as King, he was often called away and Uncle Chaos would finish. He’s actually the reason why I love daggers so much. At the end of every story he would show me a new weapon. This particular blade,” the Hime said, holding it up. “Is a Phantom Shirki Blade. It was very popular during the Medieval Era. Due to a string of political situation during the Great Cooperation, these types of blades were banned from Negito.”

The two Elvenkai were at a loss for word. Kurara wasn’t known for her knowledge base.

Kaz and Eagle were equally impressed. “What can you tell us about the inscription?” Kaz questioned, wanting to see what else she knew.

“That’s the trickier part,” Kurara admitted. “The language is ancient Midgard. I’m a little rusty at it. The only word I can make out it ‘TATSU’.” The female Genohuman shrugged her shoulders, and handed the blade back to the Human.

“Very good and impressive,” Eagle acknowledged. “Based on what Kurara just said, why is finding this at Jordava a disturbing sign?”

The three kas looked at each other, shook their heads, and turned back to their Kouchou.

“It means that outside forces were involved,” Eagle answered. “In this case, assassins.”

“How do you know it was assassins?” Yoshio asked, not sure how the Human got the information just off a single blade.

“Several things. One, experience. Two, the inscription,” Eagle replied. “The very fact that it’s written in ancient midgard, eliminates a lot of people and organizations. I can think of only handful of people and Orders who use that language. The Assassin Order is one of them. The third, and most important, is what the inscription says. On this side it says ‘Assassin, Tatsu, Death.” Eagle flipped the blade over and continued. “This side says ‘Yo Yin and In Yang.’”

Kaz stiffened at the last part of Eagle’s explanation. “It’s been a while since I’ve heard those names.”
“Who are they Sensei?” Sunchina asked, feeling out of the loop.

“They sound familiar,” Kurara said. “I think Grandpa may have mentioned them a time or two.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised,” Eagle said with a smile.

“They are two of the deadliest crews in the entire Assassin Order,” Kaz answered. “But not just any crews. No. They are the Orders’ top crews led by two of the top assassins of the Order.”

“The Yo Yin Crew is led by a Human by the name of Freyr Kugiahma aka Boss. The In Yang Crew is led by his twin sister, Freya Kugiahma,” Eagle added. “Back when I was with the Elite Order’s Elite Ops groups, I frequently ran into their crews on mission.”

“Talk about seeing ghost from your past,” the male Elvenkai commented.

The Human nodded, “We also found a note. It basically said the destruction of Jordava was Soul’s fault for one of his past action.”

“Should we expect a visit form one of the crews?” Kaz asked, concerned, primarily for his kas’ safety. “I mean if they did that as a warning to back off and we don’t…”

“I know where you are going,” Eagle said, interrupting the Genohuman. “This discovery should open your eyes to the severity of the situation and our mission. To answer your question Kaz, yes, we should expect a visit from them. Now that we know they are involved, we always need to keep an open eye out. That’s the reason I didn’t want you three to pull guard duty tonight.”

“How exactly does this affect the mission?” Yoshio asked, afraid he might send them back the academy.

“Just enough to change the classification of our mission from a Level Four Special Ops Mission Level Three Void Classification to a Level Five White Ops Mission Level One Void Classification,” Eagle answered, swearing he could hear a pin drop at that moment if he had one. “This is a very dangerous mission, that has not changed. We gained a piece of valuable intel. That’s a good thing.”

“But at the same time Sir, why are the three of here?” Sunchina questioned. “Given what just learned, it is clear that we are nowhere near qualified to be on this mission.”

“As much as I hate to say it,” Kaz agreed. “She has a point.”

“Be that as it may, this is what you guys have been training to do for the past four years. We,” Eagle said, gesturing to Kaz and himself. “Know your strengths and weaknesses. You three, whether you see or not, are a very well balanced team. It is hard to find time like this. You complement each other. Plus you have two highly trained and experienced leaders. As dangerous and suicidal as this mission is, I know the three of you have what it takes to succeed. All you have to do is believe in yourself and each other. Rely on your training and your leader. Listen and follow to what they say.”

Yoshio had never been as pumped in his life as he was right now. He was about to say something but Sunchina beat him to the punch.

“Thank you Sir. That means a lot coming from you. I’m sorry I questioned you.”

Eagle waved her off, “No need for that. Even experienced Vickei get overwhelmed by the situation and question theirs abilities every now and then. Now are there any other question?”

“While we were waiting for you and Soul to return from the village, I saw sevka swords stuck into the ground in random places. When I launched a drone and this is the data I got back.” Yoshio took out a pad, placed it on the table and activated it. Immediately, a holo-image of an aerial view of Jordava Village appeared.

Like Yoshio had indicated, there were sevka swords placed in a pattern. The more Kaz and Eagle looked at the image the more the pattern started to look familiar. “The pattern reminds me of the emblem of the ancient Tatsu Empire,” Eagle said, disturbed at the image.

“That’s not good,” Sunchina said, stating the obvious.

“No its not,” Eagle confirmed. “I investigate this. Are there anything else?” Eagle asked, still focused on the image.

The three shook their heads, “No.”

Eagle looked from the image to his three kas for a moment, feeling pride and a sense of confirmation that he had chosen right. “Great. We still have a couple of hours until complete nightfall, so stay out of trouble you three,” Eagle said as he pointed to his three kas.

“We’ll try,” Yoshio said, going along with what he thought was a joke, looking at Sunchina and Kurara. “You have nothing to worry about.”

“Apparently I do,” Eagle replied with a laugh. A moment later he looked at Kaz and with a nod, took the pad off the table, stood up, and the two left the kas alone. In the kitchen, Eagle and Kaz got their dinner and started to make plans for tomorrow.

MEANWHILE…

On the roof, Soul was setting up for his shift, which was a basic set up to say the least; in the center of the roof was a single watch tower with range finders and heads up displays connected to the computers inside the building. The tower allowed the watcher a rather nice three hundred and sixty degree view of the place and its surrounding area, easily allowing him to spot anyone approaching. Once his gear was set up for his shift, he noticed several bales of hay and got an idea; old fashion target practice. By the time he was done, it was completely dark.

o0o

A quarter mile east of their target’s location, a group of assassin hid in the trees and bushes, waiting for the signal to strike. The leader of the crew stood up and started to think. He was a taller than average Human at 6’2”, wearing an all-black uniform with black armor, a custom H.U.D. mask, and on the center of his chest armor was a red symbol that represented an Assassin of Tatsu. There were five other men in his crew, all dressed similar to him except for none of them bore the marking of an Assassin of Tatsu.

“Hey Boss, what exactly are we waiting for?” the second in command asked. Yuji was an average Genohuman across the board and the on the chest of his armor was a symbol that represented an Assassin of the Cross.

Without saying anything, Boss turned to his right and looked up at the full moons. For reasons of his own, Boss hadn’t filled in the group about the plan, at least not the whole plan.

The Genohuman looked towards the moon to see what his leader was looking at but couldn’t see anything, at least, not at first. Zooming in with his H.U.D., he saw a small bird flying in the center of the moon to the right. The bird was all black except for navy blue stripes on its wings and it’s chest was a mixture of navy blue and crimson red. As the bird landed on his leader’s arm, he noticed the pendant that hug around its neck and the not tied to its leg. The Human took the note and when he was done reading it, Yuji asked, “So what did it say Boss?”

Folding up the note, he put it in his pocket and turned towards his comrades, “Basically gents, our mission has changed. We’re now authorized and ordered to kill everyone in that building.”

“Wow. Someone must really not like those people,” Rinzler said, once again stating the obvious. Rinzler was a shorter than average Genohuman at 5’ with a scar going across his face, and the mark of the Assassin of the Cross on his armor.

“Obviously,” Cruiser agreed, being somewhat sarcastic. He was an average Elvenkai with the exception of only one spike on his forehead. Rather than on his chest armor, his mark of Assassin of the Cross as on his shoulder plates.

“So, when are we going to do this?” Sting asked, still looking at the building. Being the expert scout of the group, he has been keeping an eye on whether or not they’ve been spotted. Sting was a taller than average Elvenkai at 6’ and had his mark of Assassin of the Cross on his back plate.

“I say we stop trying to put in an input and listen to what Boss has to say,” Shadow firmly stated as he looked at his four comrades. Shadow was an average sized Human with silver hair and white eyes. He had been with Boss for the last several decades and had seniority, even over Yuji, which bugged the Genohuman from time to time. Even with all his experience, he was still an Assassin of the Cross and the mark of it on the sides of his throat guard.

“Alright, here’s what I propose…” Boss started.

o0o

Taking a break from target practice, he looked east to the moons, then to the tree line. The moment he settled on the tree lie, he thought he saw an unnatural rustle and decided to wait a few moments before he did anything. Getting his next generation, military grade binoculars with night vision capabilities, he focused on the spot where he saw the rustle. Less than a minute later, he saw it again and just to make sure he wasn’t crazy, he decided to get Eagle. The Aeronok placed his gear down and made his way downstairs and a few minutes later, he and the Human were on the roof.

“So where is this rustle of yours?” Eagle asked as he entered the tower, and keyed in the access codes to bring up the H.U.D. in night mode. Once the system was up and running, he focused the thermal cameras east to where Soul had mentioned inside.

“Dead east, about a quarter mile from here, behind the first true tree line,” Soul answered, looking through the binoculars once more to give Eagle’s computer the location.

Carefully looking over the screen to where Soul had indicated and at first saw nothing, even on the thermals. All he saw were animals moving in the night. His patients were rewarded when he saw a rustle where there was no wind. “I see it. Let me cycle through the filters to see if we can make out what is there.” Eagle messed with the settings but in the end ended up with nothing. “There is definitely something out there but I’m not picking up anything on the cams. Let me pull up the satellite view.” Several minutes of fiddling later only yielded the same results.

“So what is the plan?” Soul asked, frustrated and concerned.

Kaz poked his head in the tower entrance with a puzzled look on his face. “What’s going on guys?”

Before the human could answer, the Aeronok pointed to the screen. “It’s not showing on the screen because of stealth technology but trouble, dead east.”

Kaz studied the screen for a moment before he saw the discrepancy. “Figures. How are we going to approach this?” Kaz asked as he zoomed in the camera, vainly trying to penetrate the trees, wondering who was out there.

“The better question is, do we involve the kids in this?” Soul asked, knowing it was going to come up sooner or later. “Don’t get me wrong, I know this is what the kids are trained for and we are going to need all hands on deck but I don’t like the feeling of this.”

The human thought for a moment as he scratched his chin, “No, that’s not a bad idea. Kaz, feel like taking your kas on their first field defensive exercise?” Eagle asked as he looked at the Genohuman, who was clearly intrigued by the proposal.

“Sounds like fun. We both know the kids would be up for it,” Kaz replied with a smile. “How about the Takuzu?”

Eagle considered his friend’s proposal, feeling a little worried. The Takuzu was risky at best; it was usually reserved for a team who didn’t know the size and location of the enemy. The plan was dangerous because there was a very good chance the enemy could gain the upper hand in the first stroke. “If that’s the plan you want to go with, then go with it. Keep them safe Kaz.”

Already knowing what the human was already going to approve, the Genohuman was already on his way down to get his kas ready.

MEANWHILE...

In the common room, the kas were playing Norokian Chess and talking about the tournament they had just been involved in, what they saw at the destroyed village of Jordava, and the conversation they had with Soul earlier. While Yoshio was talking about swords he saw, Kaz walked in. Sunchina made a nod to Yoshio that told him to shut up and turn around. As he did, he heard Kurara’s voice, “Um, what’s up Sensei?”

Kaz thought about how to word what was about to happen but decided that simple was best. “I’ll explain while you gear up.”

Without hesitation, the three got up, and made their way to the equipment locker where Yoshio started to pass out their gear. “What’s going on? I was under the impression we weren’t going to do anything dangerous tonight?” Sunchina asked with concern as she took her gear.

By this time Kaz had gotten the rest of his gear out of his locker, “Well then, I guess this is a good time to learn that not everything goes according to plan, especially on missions. Let’s just say you guys are about to have the first field exercise and battle at the same time.” He stopped talking to the get the last of his stuff off the upper shelf. Several silent minutes later, everyone was geared up and Kaz continued to explain the situation. When the kids said then understood, Kaz sent a telepathic message saying they were ready and on the move.

o0o

Just as Eagle and Soul had finished their plan, he got a message from Kaz that he and the kas were outside. With a nod to Soul, they went to their positions; Soul at the top level of the tower with Eagle on the wall facing the enemy.

IN THE TREE LINE…

Boss finished filling in his comrades about the plan, Sting, who was still keeping an eye on the building, saw a side door open and four people walk out. At the same time, the people on the roof moved to different areas and waited. It took him a moment to realize what was happening. “Boss, we’ve got a got a glitch.”

“What kind of glitch?” Boss asked, turning to his Elvenkai scout.

“The kind where we no longer have the element of surprise and the target is on the move.”

Upon hearing that, the rest of the group got up and made their way to Sting’s position to see for themselves. Reaching the bushes and zooming in with their H.U.Ds, they say the group of four Sting mentioned heading towards them. “Well don’t just look. Tell me what we’re dealing with,” Boss said to no one in particular.

Taking that as a cue if he ever heard on, Sting stood up and made a make shift report. “All of our targets are out and about. The two are on the roof and four are on the ground making their way towards us.”

Boss stood up, took off his mask and the other gather around him and followed suit. “Ok. This is the plan. Yuji, you’re with me and we’re going for the roof. Rinzler, Cruiser, Sting, and Shadow, you guys deal with the ones on the ground.” The group nodded in agreement. “Remember, all they know is that we’re out here but have no idea how many or how we’re going to attack. Don’t underestimate them.” With that, the assassins put back on their H.U.D. masks. Each mask was designed but its owner and usually represented their position and rank. As Boss looked at his comrades, he only had two words to say, “Game time!”


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