Imperium Orbis

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Summary

What happens to pain when it's multiplied by infinity? What happens to those who feel said pain? Will they break down in madness, or will they rise from ashes again and again till the end of times and more? How many times will they fight? No... Will they fight forever? Ah, spirit of the strong, it's such a beutiful thing. Strugle, my actors, fight, kill, create, destroy, think, die, rise and do it all over again. With your blood I will write this story, with your pain I will sing this song. It will be our own magnificent opera, all to finally attain true freedom we so desire. So... violated souls of today... my dear friends... remember: for strength you often need to suffer...

Genre:
Fantasy / Thriller
Author:
StanVandergrift
Status:
Ongoing
Chapters:
1
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
18+

Chapter 1: Wake up and smell the blood

Evil wings in ether beating;

Vultures at the spirit eating;

Things unseen forever fleeting

Black against the leering sky.

Ghastly shades of bygone gladness,

Clawing fiends of future sadness,

Mingle in a cloud of madness

Ever on the soul to lie.


Thus the living, lone and sobbing,

In the throes of anguish throbbing,

With the loathsome Furies robbing

Night and noon of peace and rest.

But beyond the groans and grating

Of abhorrent Life, is waiting

Sweet Oblivion, culminating

All the years of fruitless quest.


-H.P. Lovecraft; “Despair”

..............................................................................................................................................................

Blood. The first thing that assaulted his senses was a thick stench of blood, followed by immense headache and ringing in his ears.

Then he made a mistake by opening his eyes. World swirled and twisted in his vision as if bend by the will of a mischievous god. And above all there was a disgustingly strong feeling of Deja-Vu. All that together made him want to throw up.

He started coughing and rolled to the side. Here he met a stare of bloodshot dead eyes that reflected the horror of the last moments this person experienced. Open mouth, with many lost teeth, seemed like a hole in reality itself.

The very sky turned crimson from the eminence brutality and bloodletting it witnessed, vague image of the sun now seemed like an infested wound in the heavens, it made the image of a dead man even more repulsing.

Frowning at this he stretched his hand to push that visage away and a severed half-scorched head rolled willingly away.

Ringing in his ears along with ungodly headache were still present and that made it hard to think.

What happened?

He was in the middle of battle against ork forces. Battle was raging for three days now.

Even though Orks were generally bigger, stronger and more vicious than humans he thought he could take out decent amount of these barbarians by himself even without his magic. That being sad he still got tired over time.

He wanted to be part of the Siege Mage unit that bombarded enemies with wide-area-of-effect spells, bringing multicolored destruction from afar. Or Assault Mage unit that seared through the sky to unleash death on the world below. Truth be told that would have been the most effective way to utilize his abilities.

But did anyone listen? Of course not.

His father specifically ordered him to be on the frontlines – thus there was nothing to be done.

Many might consider it cruel, especially if it was done to 17-year old kid like himself, but no one from among the people that knew him would think that. Mainly because he was strong.

He was thrown in nation-shaking wars ever since he was but 4 years old. Being hailed genius from birth he learned how to speak when he was 3 months old, how to walk when he turned 1 year, after turning 2 years he could already solve complex equations, by the age of 3 he studied philosophy and magic, after turning 4 he could already cast spells... Not long after – things started going south for him.

In his first large-scale battle no one even issued him a set of armor or a weapon. He had to kill with magic and then loot corpses to stay alive. He didn’t even get standard legionary salary.

Most of the time there was barely any room to even rest between battles. In last year his country was at war with 43 nations, which opened hundreds of frontlines for him to be a part of. On rare occasions when there was a vacation in his military service, that was most of the time caused by sever injuries, he would go back to Magic Academy to study and research various things or train with weapons or work as an adventurer mostly killing monsters for hire.

That was his life for 13 years now.

Lifting his upper body from the ground with a groan he looked around. He was on the edge of a huge crater, around him were mutilated corpses of both friend and foe. He saw few men squirming in pain here and there, nothing unusual, especially after an explosion. There were even some undead, torn to pieces but still crawling where their orders led them.

Ground already turned into crimson slick marsh and stench of blood once again assaulted his senses. Of course there were many other usual war aromas in the air, from among which shit and piss were the most normal. There was also smell of ozone from the magic fire and after that – smell of roasted meat.

Due to his magical senses he still felt a bit of radiation from the explosion lingering among the dead. But since most of the time radiation from spells, which had that kind of negative effect, shortly disappeared, it didn’t bother him.

Again, what happened?

There was a flash of green light from behind him, loud sound of the explosion and after that...

He sighed and then went on to pull off his helmet. It was harder than he thought it would be, likely it was dented. After finally pulling it off it was like he could breathe once again and then he looked at his helmet.

- “Shit...” – he thought, that was a new helmet and he had to throw it away now. Even so he was pleased that it actually served its purpose and saved his life.

Since no one issued him equipment he had to buy it himself and it was annoying because he had to work part-time as an Adventurer to afford decent armor and weapons. Slaying monsters wasn’t really that hard for him but it took a lot of time, something he didn’t have. He still had to train and learn and rest when he could.

He still didn’t hear anything aside from ringing but he felt familiar tremors in the ground. Battle still rages on most likely. In that case he still had a job to do. Though nobody paid him for said job – upsetting him greatly. For a second he compared himself to a slave and felt disgust.

Shaking his head he closed his eyes and after a few moments opened them again, now wasn’t the time for such thoughts.

First try to stand up ended in a massive failure. After falling down he once again met a familiar face with bloodshot eyes staring at him. Pieces of his armor were falling off of him into the red marsh below. That was a new armor too, he smiled remembering his late helmet...

Second try was better but not good enough. He fell again. This time an unfamiliar face met him... or rather a huge green mug with tusks that almost pierced his left eye. Once again he sighed.

He had very little mana left and wanted to use it to restore himself but that posed risk of passing out again. First stand up then get to high ground then see how things are going then get his hands on mana potion – that was the plan for now. Of course he usually had one or two potions on himself but he had to spend those on the second day of battle.

Third try was a success. He was still shaking and limping on his feet, stumbling over every corpse that was in his way but in the end he made to the bottom of the hill.

Looking up he braced himself for the climb.

It was harder than getting up to his feet – he had to admit.

It wasn’t to steep but even so his first try costed him couple broken ribs. While once again lying in bloody gore and dirt he finally started feeling pain and fatigue throughout his body. It was as if hundreds of gaping mouths opened all over his body and started screaming bloody murder.

Looking at the sky that had unwelcoming red color he decided to close his eyes and fully embraced pain in his body before plunging into deepest corners of his mind. Breathing deeply and steadily, he started meditating.

The world around him disappeared and he was alone in loving darkness.

No sounds, no sensations, no matter.

Deeper. To the depths. Past the temples of twisted thoughts. Past shrines of pain and sanctuaries of madness, taking care not to disturb the inner demons. Into the abyss of himself.

And here he saw a star, chained down but raging. Shackles of doubt, and fear, and despair upon it. Like a dam holding off the wave of boiling wrath.

- “Every battle is fought within...” - he sad to himself, words spoken were like a mantra

Sage upon the throne of his own making.

Here he reigned supreme.

Here he could command his own existence.

And so – he did.

Ice-cold ecstasy spread through his mind and in this state there was nothing that could sway him from the path he chose.

He opened his eyes and stood back up again. There will be a price to pay for this later but he didn’t mind.

Your body is the only thing in this world that you truly own – he knew that well.

He shaped it and trained it, destroyed it over and over again, fell, broke and bled, rising stronger every time to meet the expectations placed on him, it was either that or death. Giving up now would mean that his life up to this point didn’t have a meaning, he just liked to think that it did.

He liked to think that he was real.

After his ascend he looked around. The view was tragic, tens of thousands were lying dead on the ground in all directions and he knew it was only a small part.

Sweat and blood streamed down his face and that made his jet black hair stick to forehead so he slicked it back with his hand while breathing deeply. Behind the hills there should be millions more.

In the beginning of battle apposing forces were more or less evenly matched. Around 4 million orks against 3 million legionaries. Orks had advantage in brute strength, savagery and pet monsters but legions had superior mages, tactics, strategies, military formations, war mashies and most importantly – undead. Necromancers played one of the most important roles in his nation’s wars.

Of course battle of this scale was nothing relatively big, more like a little scuffle really. The biggest battle he ever participated in had 2 billion beings turning each other into a mincemeat. Dozens of different races from humans and elves to demihumans and orks were killing for a year non stop. Of course it was but a single battle, the war itself involved way more lives. It went without saying that history knew battles and wars way bigger than that. Yet for 17-year old kid it still was rather big event, even though compared to monsters that fought in that war he was no more than a fly.

He had to consider himself lucky since he was part of the one of the most powerful countries in the world – Phantomhive Empire.

Phantomhive Empire was an ancient military nation and had the most powerful military, that however didn’t mean they met no opposition. Mainly because of the Empire’s sheer size it had to wage wars on many fronts at the same time, the only exception being north where lay Kingdom of Ankrate which had comparable might to the Empire and was it’s ally for many thousands of years by now, due to the important ancient pacts from 8 thousand years ago.

That however didn’t decrease the workload put on the kid that just crawled up the hill. Because there were many fronts – he was being thrown all over west and south frontlines with rarely time for rest. Sometimes dragonriders would come to pick him up to carry him into the new battle when the previous one just ended. And that’s on good days. There were many times when mages would open a portal for him right into the fray of raging steel instantly after cutting down the last enemy on previous battlefield.

Ringing in his ears started fading and he could finally make out sounds of battle. He decided to go a bit to the back where he could probably find a dead mage, one bound to have a potion on him. While stepping over corpses he picked up a sword that looked less damaged than the others.

After couple minutes he found a dead imperial mage, his black robe with golden-colored plates was damaged, and his horned golden mask was split in half by an axe.

Kid started looking over small bag attached to mage’s belt.

Sure enough there was one potion. Low Grade but better than nothing. Quickly swallowing blue-colored liquid, in a small bottle, kid started healing himself with magic. His expertise in Healing Magic wasn’t great so he could only use spells, such as Middle Cure, from that school.

He could meditate to restore his mana pool but that would take couple hours so he decided to search for more.

It took him 9 minutes to find 7 more bottles.

- “Should be enough” – he concluded, healed himself the best he could. He also noticed some mages coming over to check for wounded, and to raise new undead...

After this he moved in the direction of sounds.

Climbing up the hill he looked around. Frontline moved quite a bit in favor of the Empire. Multicolored lightning flashed at ork horde again and again, dragonriders were blasting orks with fire, from time to time fighting in the sky against ork wyvernriders. War machines were singing their own songs of devastation and when they spoke – many orks lost their lives. Infantry was locked in bloody melee holding savages at bay. Since it consisted mostly of undead they didn’t tire nor falter. It was a pity that for this battle they had only simple Undead Warriors with a horde of Zombies backing them. They are not elite monsters, not by far.

Undead is an extremely diverse type of existence, individual representatives can be either useless meat shields or powerful godlike creatures whose arrival in the world of man will mark the beginning of the march of Death itself.

World had many monsters, so many in fact that no one knows just how many of them are out there.

Thinking about what he should do next, kid closed his eyes and started searching battlefield for the signs of powerful mages on the ork side. Shaman that casted a spell that almost killed him was no joke. Most mages would conceal their presence but orks were either too proud or too stupid for this, or both.

- “Found you, you bastard...” - at this point his mind reached the position of the target

He quickly compared himself to the ork by the amount of power just in case and came to a conclusion that he was strong enough to take that savage out.

- “However...”

The problem lay in the fact that that ork had other shamans with him. Seems like they are getting ready for another big combined spell.

Spells were classified by tiers:

1. Student tier.

2. Adept tier.

3. Master tier.

4. Hero tier.

5. King tier.

6. Emperor tier.

7. Demigod tier.

8. God tier.

Spells of God tier require manipulation of mana of practically absolute accuracy as well as ridiculous amounts of it. It is considered an immeasurable level in a since that beings who have reached it can be very different in strength. So a mage with the tier of god in Fire Magic can be weaker than a mage of the same tier in the same discipline.

Emperor tier spells already involve powers that go beyond ordinary human comprehension. Mages up to the tier of Emperor are ordinary “mortals,” simply endowed with greater power, and having reached this level they are already beginning to turn into super beings that are not bound by the restrictions or laws of the mortal world.

To start using magic one must go through the process of imbuing their brain with mana through meditation or some other more artificial means. Mana mutates the brain and soul of the user, so with time mage can use such abilities as telepathy and telekinesis almost naturally, mages also get enhanced senses and most powerful mages also have high regeneration, sometimes they even gain increased intelligence... or go mad. And of course these abilities are not limited to just mages.

There are many thousands of Schools of Magic and almost infinite number of spells, when new ones are created literally every day. All throughout history there was only one person who knew all spells and Schools of Magic and was the strongest God tier mage to ever live. The single greatest mage, The God of Magic Magnus. His understanding of magic was beyond of what even strongest gods could comprehend. It was him who developed The Magnus Formula and taught it to people. It allowed magic to exist without reading special words, as well as without calculating bulky formulas from scratch every time. Magnus taught people not just some special tricks to cast spells, but the ability to control mana in accordance with one’s own will. Therefore, it is enough for the magician to think about a spell and the magic is reproduced practically by itself. And that is but a small fraction of that formula’s capabilities.

Kid could cast up to King tier spells but still...

It would be hard to hit that ork from this distance with it. He could notice the spell and block it with barrier.

Flying through the air with flight spell will make him an easy target and teleporting right under the nose of an enemy is an especially dangerous move – all battle mages knew this – one can sense the destination of another mage’s teleport and attack in advance. Not to mention various counter-spells for teleports and portals.

Kid thought about it for several seconds and then spine-chilling grin spread across his face.

He looked around and found a corpse of a small dragon and then casted Hero tier necromancy spell – Raise Great Undead. Some seconds later dead dragon started moving and rose from the ground, shaking its former master off. It groaned in anticipation of slaughter, taking that as an invitation kid clamped blade in his teeth and jumped on the back of a dragon. They rose in to the air going straight for the ork shamans.

Mental techniques were no longer needed. He released it all at once. There was no forgiveness on the battlefield. There didn’t have to be. Millions came here to kill and die, and they will do just that. No tragedy, no comedy, just a song dedicated to life, because what better proof of life is there other than existence of death?

- “Yes, there is no need to be dead while you’re still alive!” – he was happy after seeing the familiar scenery of battle, pain and fatigue returned worse than ever, as long as one is alive one is bound to feel these things, so he smiled because at this moment he knew he was real, he knew he was still alive.

There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophy.

The thrill of battle, the rush of adrenaline, the rage-filled hurricane of bloody mess inside of his own little world of destruction. He will create it again. He will look death in the eyes again.

- “What better proof is there?” – he laughed and then stood up on the dragon’s back, spreading his arms as if to embrace violence-filled existence; wind blowing in his face; he felt as if air went straight through him, like hands through clay, snatching away all the impurity of absent-mindedness that didn’t belong in the world he was about to create – “Are you happy too, my dear prey?” – looking at the ork forces he couldn’t help but feel gratitude.

His emotions were overflowing, or rather... a single emotion, a single desire – a wish to destroy and murder, to maim, burn and annihilate, to lay waste upon everything that was in his way.

And at that moment all animals in many thousands of miles felt with their instincts the presence of a monster and left their homes fleeing.

His murderous intent was so potent and intense that almost every single ork instinctively looked up, as if sensing the will of an angry god, and they were petrified, the instant they saw him – all reason escaped their heads and they started screaming. Some fainted or died out of shock, some ran, some gone mad and started laughing, some began to pray. To them he looked almost like a winged messenger of ruin. Covered in black mist – killing intent made manifest – he came to take their lives. It was almost like the kind of feeling a savage would feel at the roar of thunder, it was something they couldn’t comprehend, something that frightened them, as if cold metal spikes impaled their bodies and fear griped their hearts squeezing the very life out of them.

It didn’t matter anymore, it wasn’t worth it anymore, they didn’t want this. Thousands of orks started to retreat in chaotic fashion.

- “That’s...” – Ork-Chieftain, that was fighting on the frontline, felt shivers run down his spine when he looked up, all of his instincts were screaming at him to run away, something was wrong with that human, terribly-terribly wrong, and then a flash of insight hit him - “What is that...?! A human?!”

Ork-Chieftain started running to the shamans with all haste, leaving the melee.

- “What’s a monster like that doing here?!” – he was angry, scared and puzzled, he didn’t think they would sent The Black Dragon himself here.

He planned to stop after reaching the border of the empire to go back to the several countries he already conquered, he was supposed to have an easy life after that, but he didn’t foresee that the empire would launch an attack, it was bad enough already and now this

- “There is no way to take down a being like that!” – orks do not take kindly to coward Chieftains, so after seeing approaching legions of the empire he planned to use shamans to escape with a teleport after sacrificing his army so that there would be no one to complain. And now something terrible was heading right towards his only escape route - “Shitshitshitshitshit!”

At this point shamans started to launch spells at the lone dragonrider who made it this far. Fireballs and Stone Bullets, both were adept tier spells, flew at him from bellow yet he did not try to evade but instead charged right at them.

Spells collided with the dragon’s scales. Fireballs did little but Stone Bullets inflicted serious damage. And after another shot the dragon was ripped apart completely. Orks collectively felt relived as they saw chunks of meat and sprays of blood emerge from smoke.

The moment of relive instantly changed to dread when, charging through blood and fire in the sky, a human appeared like a vengeful ghost. Wicked smile upon his face and pale grey eyes glittered with delight, covered in dragon’s blood and fire that stretched like wings behind him, black smoke swirling in the red skies like a tear to the void. That demonic visage lasted for a second, but to orks it seemed like an eternity spent in maddening horror, so much so that that moment imbedded itself in their racial memory, forever changing them. An oppressive aura of that monster will become a nightmare that even their descendants will have to endure and when their children wake screaming in the night they will cry about a demon in the sky.

Frozen in terror ork-shamans could do nothing but look at the approaching violence incarnate. Head of the shamans was the same, yet when a sword held by that human pierced his skull for a moment – he felt relived. He will not have to suffer this fear anymore, and he thanked that monster in his heart for the sweet release of death.

After pulling his sword out of shaman’s head he started swinging it left and right like a Grim Reaper’s scythe. Each swing brought devastation that devoured dozens of lives in an instant. Severed limbs and bodies were flying in all directions, and hot blood rained down upon the living and the dead alike.

- “Why are you running? Stay and fight!” – kid was saying this but no one listened, why aren’t they fighting him? That made him angry and anger grants freighting power, each of his swings now sent hundreds to the afterlife. Here he spotted an ork that was bigger than the others – “A Chieftain? Perfect! Come at me!” – he turned to face the huge ork but that savage somehow seemed reluctant to fight him, only standing there with gaping mouth. Why? It must be some kind of trick. Getting close could be a mistake – “In that case...” – kid moved to the side as not to hit the imperial legions and stretched his arm releasing King tier spell – Lightning Ray.

Straight beam of destructive energy flew forth and almost instantly devoured 30 thousand lives, leaving behind nothing but scorched chunks of meat that no longer resembled once living beings.

After spell had ended upper half of the Chieftain’s body vanished to parts unknown, just like everything behind him.

- “What...?” – kid was disappointed – “Seems like there was no reason to get exited... I used that dragon as a shield to get close enough to attack, but seems like it was overdoing it... And I should really stop talking to myself” – he looked to the distance and saw that legions already achieved victory and orks were routed – “Need to cleanup” – After this he once headed to advancing legions.

After some hours of chasing down orks – he received permission to return back to camp and rest.

He was walking past marching legionaries, each was wearing standard imperial equipment – black plate armor with red cloth under it and helmets with skull masks. The necro esthetic was ever-present in the empire, even armor of regular legionaries was covered with metallic bones, ribs and spines covering breastplates like insect chitin. It was to show that they brandish death rather than submit to it. That death, not only their enemy’s but also their own, is a weapon they willingly utilize with abandon. It’s an effective tool to erode enemy morale. The skull motif represents the judgment of the empire’s past legionnaires that laid down their lives to protect the empire. Every soldier of the Phantomhive Empire must strive to be worthy of the sacrifices they made in the past, the ever-present skulls of the dead remind them of that daily. Through every legionary’s skull mask the ancient legions look upon the enemies of present and make them shudder, so in all of the world there is a saying: “When phantom legions march – death marches with them”.

Every now and then he noticed officers, mainly centurions, that had helmets with bright red crest on them. He also saw Undead Warriors in neat formations on standby, standing motionlessly like statues. Most of them were out on the battlefield collecting corpses right now, orks for necromants and legionaries for cremation.

By this time sky was already cleared by mages and was regular blue color. Clearing the sky was mostly done so that it would be easier to spot flying enemy mages, if there were any.

On his way he was stopped by a young man, somewhat older than himself, wearing white coat – field medic and a healer mage at a same time.

- “Once again you’re alive, Edgar” – sad he – “At this rate for how long will that be?”

- “What do you want, Ranard?”

- “Come, I’ll look at your injuries”

- “I can heal myself with magic, you know?”

- “Stop lying, I know you can only use Adept tier healing, it doesn’t fully restore serious internal injuries, it can’t even remove scars”

- “I can still use services in the next city I visit to fully restore my body”

- “And when exactly was the last time you did that?

- “...” – needles to say it was a long time ago, but still there was something more important – “You do now that you are not allowed to help me, right?” – his father’s orders

- “I wouldn’t be offering if I didn’t receive permission”

Edgar frowned. Permission? From who? There is no way it came from his father.

- “I see you’re surprised. Don’t look at me like that, it’s an order from Siferoth Wonderways”

- “Siferoth? Why would he go against my father’s orders?” – he thought about it briefly and came to a conclusion that they probably need him for something again, official event perhaps. It wasn’t a first time too, Siferoth was most likely the one who arranged for the whole thing, including healing. Perhaps he overestimated Edgar’s abilities and thought that he didn’t receive any serious wounds and thus could be healed easily.

- “I am but a humble war medic, I receive orders – I carry them out. You should talk with legate about it later. Please, don’t make it hard for me” – medic smiled wryly shrugging his shoulders.

- “...Well then, I’ll be in your care”

After walking into the field hospital, some injured legionaries that were there, tried to get up to greed him but he gestured them to stop. They however kept looking at him as if at some sort of legend.

- “Have a seat” – Ranard pointed at one of the beds and then called over some nurses. They helped Edgar remove his clothing and pieces of armor that were still present. Several gasps were heard – “How the hell are you even still alive, Edgar?” – his body was littered with scars, there wasn’t even a single undamaged part of skin, some of his bones healed in the wrong way and were sticking out, some parts of his skin were like sandpaper. Injuries from piercing weapons, injuries from slashing weapons, injuries from blunt weapons, injuries from monster claws and fangs, injuries from magical fire and acid and lightning, injuries from arrows and bolts... And those were only the external injuries. Even though he had very prominent muscles and an impressive figure – the view was still tragic, so much so that nurses covered their moths in shock, not because they didn’t see worse, but rather because they never seen such injuries on someone who was walking and talking as if nothing even bothered him. Before them was a temple of pain that knew very little tenderness in life.

- “I had worse” – Edgar on the other hand didn’t seem to care much about the state of his own body – “Well, Ranard? Can you heal this?”

Medic quickly scanned him with magic and his expression became grim.

- “...I’m afraid I can’t” – Ranard was looking at him with something akin to horror and regret in the eyes.

- “I see... Then I believe I should be going, thank you anyway” – Edgar rose to his feet and put on his half-torn clothes

- “Edgar, I’ll be serious – people don’t live with those kinds of injuries. You need to have that checked. Ask for Paracelsus’s help, I am sure he’ll help you”

- “You do know that he is my family’s medic? That means he is under direct control of my father”

- “So what?! Plead with-”

Edgar raised his hand to stop him.

- “First of all – I do not plead. Second – pleading to my father would mean that I accepted defeat. And third – no matter what kind of man he is, he is still my father and I don’t want him to see me lose” – he smiled, and after slightly bowing to the silent medic and nurses, turned to leave – “Keep up the good work and don’t worry about me” – with this he left the field hospital.

Right at the exit he was met by a messenger that saluted him bringing left fist to the chest and slightly bowing. Edgar knew what this meant and before he started speaking, he sad first.

- “Legate wishes to see me, right? Tell him that I’ll come after I change” – Edgar was reaching his limit and needed to get away quickly.

- “Yes! Then please excuse me” – he bowed again and left.

Edgar continued on his way to his tent. It was different from the usual military tents of the empire, mainly because he bought it himself on the market. Rather plain looking spartan tent that only had enough room for one person, since he didn’t need it to be anything more than that – it was ok.

After entering he sat down on the futon on the ground, then he grabbed a bucket that was nearby and then casted a spell that covered his tent in a sound-blocking field.

At that point he gave in to weakness and vomited blood into the bucket. After coughing valiantly for a minute he started breathing heavily, looking at crimson liquid that escaped his ravaged body, then he smiled.

- “Guess that’s how it should be... or rather – as expected”

Fatigue started creeping up on him. Pain on the other hand has reached the point of being a distant dream, as if his own body tried to prevent him from feeling it, not unlike a defense mechanism, and thus it didn’t bother him all that much. He coughed again, feeling as if his lungs are expanding and shrinking while being in pieces, almost like trying to inflate a holed balloon, it was a funny feeling. He was feeling dizzy but still made an effort to rinse his mouth of blood.

- “I really need to take care of this soon...” – he sad to the empty tent and tried to stand up, once again it costed him some effort and at that he frowned, in the next instant he felt like he was loosing consciousness and hit himself in the face as to wake up – “You cannot show weakness, you idiot... Shit, guess punishing the body for the crimes of the mind is a bad idea. It could become a habit...” – since he didn’t have anyone that he could show his weakness to, himself was sometimes the only person he could talk to – “Shit I need to stop this, or I’ll go mad” – he exhaled, cracked his neck and started changing.

After some time he made it to the legate’s tent, it was bigger than most of the other tents in camp, guard on each side of the entrance made way for him and he entered.

Legate of the 397-th legion, Norix Fallron, it was a stern looking middle-aged man with black hair on top and some white hair on his temples. Wearing black plated armor with some golden parts he instantly gave off an impression of a capable individual. He was standing next to the big table with a map on it.

- “You wished to see me, legate?”

- “Yes, Edgar, please come in” – he looked at him at for a moment and then returned his attention back to the map.

- “Then excuse me...” – Edgar walked through the tent and stood next to the table with a map

- “Want to have some refreshments? You look rather pale”

- “I’m fine, won’t mind something to drink though” – he wiped cold sweat from his forehead.

Legate poured some wine into two cups and handed one to Edgar who sipped a bit of it. Sour, he didn’t like dry wine, but it was cold and that made it tolerable.

- “It was quite a show you demonstrated today, Edgar. Truly deserving of the one called Black Dragon”

- “If you say so” – Edgar wasn’t trying to be modest, he truly didn’t understand why would someone praise him for the job that was given to him, everyone already expected that he could do it from the beginning anyway... yet many people kept praising him for his accomplishments in war, some even go so far as to call him a hero of the nation, nicknaming him The Black Dragon. Edgar himself didn’t think of himself as anything more than a soldier, his job was to kill until he himself was killed – that’s all he did. Sometimes of course he would act the role of the commanding officer but he wasn’t comfortable in that position, even though he was good at it, because he wasn’t confident in himself.

- “I do not think you need to be modest” – Norix closed his eyes and sipped some wine too, as if he already predicted Edgar’s response beforehand – “Not many people can kill so many orks alone, you know?”

- “I’m not so sure about that... Well, I do believe we should get down to business”

- “Agreed” – legate picked up two letters from a table and placed them next to Edgar – “Letters from the capital. One is an order for me, the other – I do not know, it is a personal letter for you only”

Edgar understood that it must be something special because it was handed to him by legate himself, so he picked them up and started reading.

After reading through both letters he sighed and sipped some wine again.

Of course they needed him for something.

- “I see... Well, in the light of that I seem to be leaving your legion, legate Fallron, for now at least. What will your legion do now?”

- “I am sure you already figured it out”

- “You intend to go into the territories that were conquered by orks and salvage spoils of their labor, perhaps even seize control if the land is in a good enough condition? Did you sent for someone who could make that decision?”

- “Yes, I have sent a word to the Administration so that they would send one of their ambassadors, they should be able to figure it out”

- “Then what about additional manpower? If surrounding countries have the same idea as we are – then it could lead to some problems down the line”

- “...One of the Five Generals is coming here with his legion”

Edgar was surprised, to send one of the Five Generals is overkill. Each general, traditionally, was represented by a certain color: black, white, golden, red or grey.

- “Which one?”

- “Golden General Wilhelm Oldgate”

- “Hmmm, It should be alright then, he is a good-natured man”

- “So I’ve heard”

- “Seems like they placed priority on seizing control over that territory. If they wanted slaughter and destruction then Black General would have been their first chose”

- “You don’t say? I’ll keep that in mind”

- “Good. Now, if there is nothing more to discuss...”

Edgar took one of the letters and, after bidding farewell to legate, left the tent to go gather his things and then head to mages that would open a portal for him.

Since letter mentioned that he had around a week to recover Edgar decided to first of all get a treatment.

So portal led him to the city of Nordolf that was located in the East Reach of the Phantomhive Empire. Speaking plainly it was a resort.

This city had many hospitals, places of rest, places with spa procedures, hot springs and many other things.

Even if Edgar wanted to relax here for couple of days, he couldn’t be so wasteful. His main goal for now was to get stronger so that things like this happened... less frequently.

It was mostly his own fault of course – not being able to protect himself properly, so he naturally took necessary steps to become stronger when he could. He didn’t take into account his self-destructive tendencies however, maybe that was thanks to his pride or foolishness or... madness.

There were many ways to get stronger, for Edgar a few were available.

For one – to learn new spells. The problem with that was that it takes a long time for a normal person to learn high tier magic, even though Edgar was a prodigy in magic he was still technically human. Learning something like another King Tier spell could take him weeks. Even spells of Hero tier are already several volumes worth of material that one needs to perfectly memorize, visualize, understand and structure in their mind, not to mention practice.

Another way to get stronger was to train in weapon mastery, for Edgar best choices would be spears and swords. Spears were generally easier to handle and one could master it much quicker than hammers for example, Edgar also had very high affinity with them, but you can’t get far on talent alone. Most of the time however, when he had to fight in the melee, Edgar fought with a sword because he spend most of his early years learning swordsmanship from his master.

Even so he preferred to fight with magic since it was his strongest asset.

And the third way was to get better equipment. Buying high-end magical artefact gear was expansive, so for a couple of months he was making his own set of armor and a sword. Learning how to make those was harder than he expected but a talented friend helped him out with it and that sped up the process by a lot.

Stepping out of the portal he found himself on the coordinate platform, it had many glowing and shifting symbols on it. This platform served as a preset point to which one could open a portal without ever being here, they also needed to be activated from both sides. Very useful for transportation network and trade.

In the past many countries used this technology to infiltrate other lands with their armies, but countermeasures, in the face of special wide range spell fields, were very quickly invented, and that wasn’t all – some countries go as far as scanning their entire surface every now and then for abnormal space distortions. It was hard to do with the empire’s size but they seem to be doing their job very well in that regard. High ranking officials even had special codes that, if added to the spell formula, allowed to teleport and create portals almost without restrictions within the borders of their country.

Looking around he saw dozens of other platforms in neat lines on either side of him and huge iron golems behind him that were ready for attack, he paid them no mind.

Walls of the city were towering over him with guards and crystal cannons on them and undead marching on patrols.

On every tower he saw a flag of the Phantomehive Empire – threatening head of the Black Dragon on the red field, eyes of that monster from the flag seemed to follow you wherever you go.

Stepping off of platform he headed to the city’s gates and after going through a check and confirming his identity – which came as somewhat of a surprise for the guards – he went in.

................................................................................................................................................................

Greetings, everyone!

This is my first time writing in English, I am mostly self-taught and I hope it’s at least readable :D

And it is also my first time sharing my work with people aside from my friends.

The story itself is a prequel to my original story that is still work in progress and right now has around 350k words to it. I plan to slowly get this prequel to the beginning of the original and then, perhaps, if everything goes well – translate what I already have with some changes. The story will have dozen or so point-of-view-characters with their own stories, hardships and journeys that connect them in one way or the other, with everything leading to one goal. For this prequel I plan to mostly focus on Edgar.

Fantasy with mad adventures, epic events and hope-shattering plot with strugglers that do their best to overthrow it... If something like that is to your tastes – then join in.

Not all of it will be gore and bloody battles mind you, there will be light moments too.

Feel free to tell me what you think about this story from a first chapter, or my way of writing, it will be appreciated.

As a bonus here is an art by Alle Page that I think more-or-less depicts Edgar :3

Have a nice day!

P.S. I have thousands of various fantasy arts, that I sometimes draw inspiration from, stored on my computer, If you’d like I could use them in between text like illustrations for light novels.

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