Red Cross

Red Cross

A small task force is assigned an impossible mission: Take out a mercenary army.

published on June 083 reads 2 readers 0 not completed
Chapter 1.

1-1 (Nick)

A soft, brief wind hit Nick’s face as he slammed shut the hardcover book he was holding in one hand. He slipped it into his open backpack resting against the same tree he was before rustling the fur of the animal on his lap.

“Jud, afternoon. Almost time to go back.”

The wolf didn’t move.

Nick reached back into his bag, pulling out some food wrapped neatly in cloth. He pulled one of the corners, loosening the cloth and letting out a smell that could entice someone to eat even after a three course meal.

As expected from any animal that hadn’t eaten in awhile, the beast woke from its slumber immediately and tore into the meat in a hurry.

“It’s not going anywhere besides your stomach so calm down a bit.” Nick commented as he rushed to set the food down on the grass before it got knocked out of his hands.

As the animal jumped off Nick in order to eat the owner stood, pulling a sandwich out of his bag and put the bag on his back. Nick’s food was similarly wrapped to his pets.

He knelt down to pick up the cloth that now only had tiny scraps on it not worthy of being eaten by the wolf. “That was quick, even for you. Was you hungry?”

Jud nuzzled against Nick’s leg, to which the man responded by staying knelt and ruffling the fur of the wolf once more, a small smile inching onto his face. His hand just seemed to disappear into the light grey fur and it was warm, which, considering it was Summer, felt a little uncomfortable. He pulled his hand away before it started to sweat and grabbed the cloth on the ground.

“Oi, Lad! Are you heading to Carva by any chance?”

Nick jolted and looked in the direction of the voice to see a horse-drawn carriage a few dozen metres away on a dirt road. Despite being in a crouched position he still had to look down as the tree he was just resting against was atop a small hill. It was clearly the handler sitting at the front that had called out to him. Nick hadn’t heard anything beforehand, remarking to himself that he needs to be more aware in the future. Granted, with an animal like Jud around there shouldn’t be a problem as he sometimes functioned as a radar, growling at anything within range that he didn’t like, but Nick couldn’t always rely on his animal companion.

Approaching so as to not have to shout back, Nick replied. “Yeah, I live there at the moment. It’s about time for us to head home.”

“Great, can I hire you for the rest of the trip?”

He raised his left hand. “That’s fine by me, but I’m not an adventurer.”

It was common knowledge that all adventurers hired by the guild of this country had a unique ring, normally firmly wrapped around a finger on one’s left hand. Nick had heard they were fancy magic items with multiple functions that’d come in handy, but he’d never gone far enough to stumble across a town with a guild house. Nick had kept to just the few nearby villages.

“Bah, it’s just some other way to show you’re capable. The fact that you live out here is good enough for me.” He shuffled around, eventually pulling out a bag of coins. “I believe ten silver should do it.”

“That seems generous if you only want to pass through a small forest.”

The man leaned in. Clearly he was getting on in years as his wrinkles became more apparent the closer he got. His receding hairline also wasn’t doing any favours to the depiction of his age. “You don’t have to worry about the pay, it’s high because it’s important.”

Nick looked at the carriage as the rider looked at Nick’s sword holstered at his waist, specifically on his left hip. “Well it won’t hurt anyone, so I don’t see why not.” The windows were tinted so he couldn’t see inside and the carriage itself was quite plain looking. If it was a noble’s vehicle then there would’ve at least been a pattern around the frame. To put it simply, it would’ve looked fancier.

Perhaps this was because he had never ventured far from the village but Nick just didn’t know enough about the world to make a judgement, simply relying on small things he’d heard here and there. It could be a merchant trying to smuggle something across the border, bandits setting up an elaborate ambush for anyone they could find, or maybe even an undercover operation where low numbers was key to success. Nick just didn’t know.

So with a shake of the hands, they set off. The boy and his wolf clambered onto the back of the vehicle where a low wooden plank was placed. It was clearly there for hired mercenaries and such to rest on.

“What do you think?” He looked at the wolf sitting next to him on the plank, who whimpered in response. “Right? I still don’t think something important would be handled like this.”

Despite how he acted, Nick couldn’t actually understand animals.

He finally began eating the sandwich he’d been holding this entire time as the waiting game set in. He understood it might be a covert operation of some sorts, but still, no guards seemed off. There was no telling what exactly was going to happen but it didn’t seem strange to assume bandits were involved. That seemed most likely, but now he couldn’t help but think the reason he hadn’t heard the carriage was because of some sort of silencing spell. If that were the case he’d have to take measures and be extra careful as magic wasn’t normally a bandit’s forte. Dealing with someone better than the standard fool wasn’t always easy.

However, his concerns never led to anything. They made it through the forest without any issues in about thirty minutes. Once they cleared the treeline a short wooden fence coming up to an adult’s waist circled a village of no more than 20 buildings. They passed under a wooden archway that stood a good five metres tall. Once they were inside the village the first few buildings were a simple blacksmiths and farm house. As expected, the blacksmith had a furnace built into the side of the clay house. It was also larger than the average building in the settlement because it functioned as the owner’s house too. It was the same for the farm house on the opposite side of the dirt road. There was a pen currently out of sight with a small number of animals fenced in, as well as a large rectangular room for processing the various goods the livestock produced. This made it the largest building in the village, and most other villages too since, this far out in the wild, they needed to be almost completely self-sufficient.

Carrying on they arrived in the centre of the settlement where a decent sized clearing was. Everyone in the village could freely dance in this clearing without worrying about bumping into anyone else so the two horses and carriage fit with plenty of room to spare.

A handful of people of varying ages not exactly up to much began gathering as Nick hopped off the back to speak to the driver. He had one hand on the hilt of his sword partially just to rest it there, but to also show that he had quick access to his weapon, and the other holding onto his bag. “If anything I feel like I owe you. Thanks for the ride.”

“Ha, better safe than sorry.” He handed Nick the bag of coins as promised.

“Thanks. Have a good day.”

“And you.”

As he began walking away a girl roughly the same age as Nick, who would be twenty soon, ran up to greet him. She was wearing light armour in a similar style to Nick, although hers looked cleaner and had an additional guard on her right shoulder, her primary arm. “How was it?”

“The same as usual, boss. What about the others?”

She grimaced. “What did I tell you about calling me that? But whatever, everywhere else is the same as every other day.”

“Is Grant drinking already?”

“Not this time.” She chuckled.

As they spoke the doors of the carriage swung open, a woman wearing a blue dress with fine gold embroideries around the edges stepping out with an aid in the form of her guard’s hand. Her jewelry shone brightly and reflected the sun, but to the point that made it annoying to the eye. While it seemed like she originally had long hair, it dropped down just enough to cover her neck then was pinned to the back of her head with a star-shaped hair pin. The hair pin itself has multiple blue gems embedded in a golden frame to match her dress.

Apparently her guards had been inside the carriage alongside their employer, which definitely seemed different to what Nick thought should happen. They had better armour than anyone in the village, full metal armour that made a noise at the slightest movement, but numbers were not on their side if a fight broke out.

“I have caught wind that an Otherworlder has appeared in this area. I am here to negotiate with them.” She spoke loudly to those who had gathered after clearing her throat.

Nick removed the hand he’d kept on the hilt of his sword. He’d still been on edge, expecting something to go wrong, but with the woman stepping out of the carriage all seemed fine so he began to relax.

“I always appreciate how serious you are about your job, Nick, but you tend to worry too much.” Danak, the village’s leader, could see Nick’s shoulders relax as he approached. The young man was always on edge, but perhaps it was to be expected of someone who was still getting used to an entirely different world. Danak stroked his white beard lightly and turned to his daughter stood beside Nick. “I assume all is fine?”

She put her hand to her head to salute, but it seemed to be a lighthearted gesture. He tone all but confirmed the joking nature of her actions. “Sir, no problems with the guard.”

“Just what I like to hear.” Danak decided to amuse his daughter and play along with her silly act. Since moving here Nick had noticed how good the relationship between Danak and his daughter was. They may be village chief and head guard but neither of them acted as their positions told them.

“Is anyone listening?! I said I am here for the Otherworlder! Bring them to me now!”

Danak sighed. “Lou, go home first and tell your mother to prepare tea. It seems we have a nuisance to deal with, right Nick?”

“Are you going?” She looked directly into Nick’s eyes.

To say he hadn’t considered it would be a lie. After the people of this village helped him out they would often bring up that Nick was destined for great things due to his status as an Otherworlder, but he felt like he could call this place home, and nothing felt better to Nick than protecting his home and the people that lived there.

“I’ll hear her out, but I don’t think I’ll go. Even if I were convinced, she already seems like a pain to deal with.” He said, turning to walk with Danak. “The thing I’m more curious about is how she knew an Otherworlder was here.”

The village chief nodded. “It does seem odd. I’d like to know that too.”

And so Nick and Danak confronted the rich woman. Following the village leader’s guidance the group of six people and a wolf, because Nick wasn’t leaving Jud behind, entered a house at the other side of the large clearing. It was made mostly out of wood and poorly mixed cement, with thick brown thatch for a roof just like every other house in the village.

The elder and rich woman sat opposite each other at a table. Both the table and the chairs seemed a bit rough but that was because the blacksmith had made them. He wasn’t a carpenter, so building furniture wasn’t his strong suit. Behind the rich woman were her two heavily armoured guards and behind the elder was Nick and another guard, with Jud sitting on the floor and swinging his tail back and forth, kicking up a small amount of dust.

“First off, I am Grace Julian.” She certainly had an air of a noble with the perfected hand gestures and manner of speech. Even the way she sat was refined. “I am here to recruit the Otherworlder who has appeared in this area. Where is this person?”

Nick, with crossed arms, already didn’t like her attitude from before, but there was nothing to be done for rich brats who were born into wealth. Instead the thought was tossed aside as he casually put his hand up to indicate he was the person she was after.

It seemed to take her a few seconds to process the person she was after was him. “Really, you became a guard for this place? Why? We’re so far out that settlements don’t fall under the jurisdiction of the king.”

“I have a place to eat and sleep, what else could I ask for?”

“Otherworlders are treated like royalty in the capital, you know? Come with me and experience it first-hand, I know you’ll favour it over this place.”

Nick couldn’t help but think she was just replacing any insults she wanted to say with ‘this place’ so as to not cause a fuss. Those two words could be replaced by a variety of rude phrases, but she needed to stay on his good side.

“That sounds absolutely wonderful and all, but no thanks.”

She jumped up, the chair falling and hitting the ground. “Why not?! You can have whatever you want! I will even personally grant you a Noble Seal!” She composed herself, returning to her former refined appearance. “I assume you don’t know what one is, so let me explain. A Noble Seal will grant you access to a majority of high-end shops in the capital, as well as free access to quests from the guild only for people with such seals. They are exceptionally rare, too. As a Noble, I am only allowed to hand three out in my entire life.”

“Be sure to hand them out accordingly then.”

Nick almost regret what he said, he felt it to be a step too far, but seeing the woman who’d grown up with everything she wanted look like she was about to blow a fuse was more satisfying than he thought it’d be.

“You know what, I was trying to help you, but whatever! Just don’t come crying to me when you actually want it.” She turned to leave.

“I do have a question, actually.”

Grace stopped, probably hoping that it was his way of worming back into her offer. She was a terrible actor though, excitement at possibly bagging herself an Otherworlder was too clearly written on her face.

“How’d you know an Otherworlder was here?”

“A village was destroyed in this region. Word got around that perhaps it was due to the summoning of one such as yourself. To confirm it my family hired a powerful magician who was able to detect you were here.” She answered but was overall confused by the question as it wasn’t what she was expecting.

“I died in my own world and came to this one a few days before that village was destroyed. No one was prepared, but a few of us managed to escape and eventually stumbled across Carva, this village.” He looked at his open hand before clenching roughly.

“Wait, but Otherworlders are supposed to be powerful, right? Why did you not just fight off the attackers?”

“There are a number of reasons. First off, I come from a peaceful country so I’m not prepared to fight, let alone possibly kill other humans. Secondly, I only came here with a sword and knowledge. Memories of past warriors, to be specific. To put that to use without training turned out to be pretty hard, so the few that managed to survive the attack simply fled.”

She stared at him in disbelief. That couldn’t have been it. Otherworlders were granted great power before going to another world, so why did this one only have such basic equipment?

“I-it’s the sword, right? It’s some all-powerful treasure.”

Nick unsheathed it. It’s fancy scabbard was made out of high quality leather with silver accents and the sword itself was as polished and clean as they come, reflecting his eyes with crystal clarity. One side of the golden cross-guard curled upwards, while the other side curled down. A shining blue sapphire was placed at both ends of the cross-guard, as well as a slightly larger one positioned at the end of the hilt.

“Nope, it’s pretty normal. I’ve been training for months now so I can finally use it properly, there’s nothing overly special about it. There are a few gimmicks to it, like it’ll teleport to me if there’s too much distance between us, but otherwise it’s just a sword.” He remarked while putting it back into the leather case at his side.

“Magic! That has to be it! There’s no way we received such an underwhelming Otherworlder. You’re definitely hiding something.”

“Man, you’re annoying.” He said, scratching the back of his head. “I don’t know how magic works, but there is some attached to my sword. If I will it some sort of invisible force will surround it. The field, or force, basically turns it into a blunt weapon so I don’t have to worry about killing others.” He paused, thinking about it. “Oh, but my ability is ‘affinity with animals and spirits’ so I think it’d be cool to summon a spirit.”

If he had to honest, he was extremely interested in magic. Speaking with his inner child, summoning a spirit did indeed seem like a fun idea, and if he went out of his way to learn certain things he’d be more versatile in combat. He could paralyze opponents without even having to be near them for all he knew, which would definitely make stopping attacks on the village easy. One of the main reasons he didn’t know any spells, though, was because there just weren’t any books around for him to learn it from. No one in the village was fit to teach him either, since learning even basic spells required time and effort. The settlers here had to worry about living before all else.

“Then come with me! I’m sure you’re hiding something or maybe you don’t know the power yet, but Otherworlders are always more powerful than an army of 10,000. We can teach you exactly how to access that power as well as give you all the grimoires you want. You’ll be able to summon a spirit in no time.”

He simply shook his head. “I’m happy here. I have a place to protect and call home, that’s enough for me.”

The rich woman gripped her dress, probably out of anger, and began cursing as she stormed out. Her two guards quickly followed, helping her into her carriage. They left as quickly as they’d shown up.

Danak’s wife walked in with a tray in hand that held multiple cups, a small amount of steam rising from them. “Oh, are they gone already?”

“Well I believe that could’ve been handled better.” Danak said, slapping Nick on the back after standing and putting his chair under the table.

“I was just being honest. A life like this isn’t so bad.”

“Perhaps it’s a stereotype, but Otherworlders are meant to go on adventures. It’s not like I’ll force you to leave though. If you want to live here for the rest of your life, then by all means, you can. But if you decide to leave one day, I won’t stop you. I’ll see you off with a smile.”

Nick nodded and accepted a cup of tea with a thank you and a smile before returning to his room. The building they were in was actually Danak’s house, in which was Nick’s bedroom. While the blacksmith had insisted that it wouldn’t be too much trouble to sort him a small house out, Nick didn’t want to be too much of a hassle so he chose the easy option and now permanently occupied one of the spare rooms the village chief’s house.

As they left the meeting room Jud picked up his owner’s bag that’d been put down before the talk with the rich woman. The wolf followed it’s master all while wagging its tail and placed the backpack down beside the bed once they reached their destination.

Nick ruffled the thick fur of his pet while setting down the tea on his bedside table and grabbing a quick snack from a jar on a shelf near the window. While munching on some peanuts he took his leather jacket off and threw it on his bed but opted to keep the chainmail under his shirt on and his sword by his side. Bandits attacked the village Nick was living in before on the evening as everyone was relaxing. The reason the previous settlement fell was because even the guards started resting.

He sat on the bed. After it’d been brought up he couldn’t help but think about the previous village. Danak already saw that Nick partially blamed himself for not being able to protect everyone there. If he had just been greedy like other people that travelled to other worlds then he would’ve easily kept them all safe.

And then he recalled why he was here in the first place. Nick grit his teeth, about to punch down into the hay mattress, but Jud being the smart wolf that he was knew that Nick was troubled and comforted the young man by rubbing against him and offered to be stroked.

Nick forced a smile. “You really are a good boy.”

With a quick knock on his door, Lou let herself into his room. “How hungry are you? Mom said dinner can be done whenever.”

As the head guard, she hadn’t removed any of her gear. From the moment she woke up to the moment she went to bed, Lou was ready to fight.

“I don’t mind, whatever’s easier for your mom.”

Noticing his face, Lou changed her plans. Originally she was going to ask about dinner and go, but she completely entered his room, shut the door behind her and took a seat next to him. “You say that every time, but more importantly, are you okay?”

“Perfectly fine, thanks.”

“I think anyone would feel how you do right now.” She smiled directly at him. A smile that no one could refuse. “I don’t mind being the shoulder you cry on, y’know.”

A wry smile back. “I appreciate it.”

“LOU! NICK!”

Immediately, the pair stood, grabbed whatever they needed, ran through multiple rooms and out of the house. The man steering the horses had stumbled into town barely conscious and missing an arm. There weren’t any healers around but the blacksmith had the right equipment, setting to work on cauterizing the wound. If only there were a professional healer then the man’s entire arm could’ve been restored, but he should be happy to still be alive.

Danak approached his daughter and Nick. “Sounds like bandits. A lot of them, too.”

Lou’s guards had already assembled and were awaiting orders.

“Nick and Grant, you two go and check on the other three. Even if the guards die, she won’t. She’s a noble and will get used for a ransom. You know what to do if you need backup.”

And so Nick and Grant ran off into the forest that surrounded the village, with Jud almost calmly keeping up beside them. Lou ordered everyone capable of fighting to prepare themselves, stationing her guards at specific locations around the village border. In a place like this everyone knew how to handle a weapon, it was necessary for their survival. The guards were simply better trained than the average person in the settlement.

Since it hadn’t been long since they left the rich woman should be reasonably close. As the two guards, and wolf, of Carva sprinted forward they reached the scene of the crime. One of the heavily armoured men was already dead, the carriage was on it’s side and the horses were gone. The two survivors weren’t anywhere within their immediate vicinity.

They passed the wooden vehicle, which Nick noted as having a wheel cleanly cut in half, to check on the guard. The grass beneath him was stained red and there were multiple deep gashes in his metal suit.

“He’s already dead.” Grant said after removing the helmet and checking for a pulse on the man’s neck.

“That wheel is cut a bit too well. Would magic do something like that?” Nick questioned since he wasn’t exactly knowledgeable about the topic.

The older guard stood up and checked over the carriage. “Yeah, I think you’re right. My best bet would be wind magic.”

After looking around a little more Grant pointed to the ground. It was small, but a trail of blood led directly into the forest and there was still two people unaccounted for. Nick immediately assumed the it was the other guard’s blood.

They did what they were meant to do, following the blood until they came across the survivors of the attack. The rich woman was backed against a tree with her remaining guard protecting her. A number of bodies littered the ground, both the alive but severely injured and the dead.

“End of the road.” Grant called out the enemy. “I suggest you run if you don’t want to die.”

As the enemies were now surrounded they moved to be more defensive, but the heavily armoured guard didn’t have the time. The moment the bandits were distracted by the other two entering the scene, he rushed forward. He was able to decapitate one and, changing how he held his sword, stabbed another through the lung, making the enemy cough up blood.

Seeing this, both Nick and Grant took on an enemy each, Grant using his sword properly, deflecting an attack and cutting off his opponent’s arm while Nick opted to use his sword still in its scabbard, making it a blunt weapon. He swiftly broke the bandit’s arm with the force of his weapon, moved aside and stamped on the man’s calf to lower his head before taking a swing at his head, knocking him out. Even Jud got in on the action, biting down hard on an enemy’s leg while Grace’s guard killed him.

“I see you’re still not into killing.”

Nick nodded. In his previous world there would never have been a situation where he needed to kill another person. While he had a unique weapon granted to him by a higher power, as well as knowledge of how to use it, he exclusively used techniques that incapacitated rather than killed.

A heavy object hit the ground. They both looked to see the guard had dropped his weapon and tossed his helmet aside. He, too, was missing an arm but fought despite that, giant splashes of a certain red substance were all over his originally shiny armour. A chunk of his hair fell next to his eye as he reached down his neck and pulled something out.

Just after he yanked what he wanted from under his metal chestplate he fell to one knee, panting heavily. Nick rushed to his side with the rich woman, Grant and Jud keeping an eye out for more enemies. He lifted his hand which held a copper plate with his name engraved on it. It was this world’s equivalent to a soldier’s dog tag.

“I leave Miss Grace to you, Otherworlder… At least get her home safe...”

The young man grabbed the guard’s hand and took the dog tag. He wasn’t going to ignore a dying man’s last wishes. “I’ll do at least that much, I promise.”

A peaceful look passed across his face as he properly took a seat with what little energy he had left.

Grace placed a hand on the knight’s chest. “You served us well, Ignis. You can rest now.” And with that, the guard closed his eyes and he let himself fall back. The rich woman turned her hand into a fist, tears welling up in her eyes.

Seeing this, Nick thought that perhaps he was too quick to judge her before. She may be a rich woman, but she seemed to have a heart. He quickly apologized in his head as now was not the time.

Jud’s ears perked up and he looked towards the village. Grant took note and looked too, seeing smoke rising up into the sky.

“Shit, the village!” He shouted, jolting off through the forest.

The young swordsman was about to follow, but Grace grabbed his arm. “Forget about the village, they’re all already dead. You’re taking me home.”

Nick’s opinion of Grace fell again briefly, but he now thought that perhaps she meant well and was just bad at expressing herself, making her come off as a harsh person, so his opinion ultimately stayed the same.

“I’m sorry but we’re helping the village first. You can moan all the way home after that.”

“No, you don’t understand.” She pointed towards one body in particular whose arm was exposed. A black cross was tattooed just up from his wrist. To Nick it looked a little like a religious symbol from his world. “Look at that symbol, it’s Red Cross. I bet they’ve got 100 trained soldiers in this area right now. Not only do you not have numbers, but they are probably better trained.”

Nick froze at the mention of that name. Red Cross was a mercenary army, and they weren’t classed as that for nothing. They had thousands of people serving them. They were to be avoided at all costs, but that didn’t count for much of anything. If one stumbled across Red Cross then it was over. They showed up whenever and wherever, slaughtering inhabitants of towns and villages without remorse. If a settlement was unlucky enough to be in the way then it was good as destroyed.

However, the reason he froze wasn’t quite because of what they were capable of. No, it was because he’d had a run-in with them before. Not even a month after coming to this new world he’d been approached by a man for knowledge and information regarding reincarnation. Nick was of no use, though. Those who were resurrected or reincarnated had to meet certain criteria. Other than that, there was absolutely no way to bring someone back from the dead, something the man wished to do. The man who asked Nick for this knowledge turned out to be the leader of an army who weren’t to be messed with and he cursed Nick before he left. That previous ordeal had to be the reason for this attack on Carva.

“We’re escorting the survivors out of there. You just stay here and wait.” He was getting desperate. He wanted to rush off and help those in Carva, but his morals didn’t allow him to leave an innocent person alone and defenseless, even if he found them annoying. “I’m not losing any more than I have to.” He added.

Despite hearing that last sentence, she didn’t budge. “I’ll pay you well! You’re just going to die if you go back there and then who’s going to get me home?!”

“Fine! Jud, stay with her, okay? If you can manage it start going home. I’ll be back as fast as possible.”

The wolf whined but followed the orders given to it as his owner ran off. Grace spat every insult she could think of in his direction as he disappeared into the large number of trees.

The closer Nick got to the settlement the worse he felt about the situation. What if everyone was already dead? Another village would be wiped off the map and people he cared for would die. He didn’t like it one bit. Another thing to worry about was his inability to kill. If Nick was just going around knocking people out they would eventually recover and the number of enemies would stay the same. His reluctance to fight properly could make the situation worse.

As he entered a clearing on the outskirts of Carva he froze. Everything was burning. From the crops that were a huge food source, to the houses and even some of the bodies that were strewn about the ground.

His head darted around trying to spot anyone still alive, quickly seeing a familiar face just past the village entrance to his left. He sprinted forth.

Grant, now with a dagger sticking out of his leg, was barely defending himself against a couple of Red Cross combatants. Nick rushed to help, knocking both enemies out with his weapon just like before.

The man, easily in his late forties, chuckled. “Took your sweet time, huh?”

“Sorry.” Nick replied, helping Grant up and giving him a shoulder to lean on. Now mobility was worse, but Nick wasn’t going to just abandon anyone, so they moved forward.

They both struggled about the place, still trying to spot any survivors, but all they came across were more dead. However, most of the corpses they were seeing now weren’t people from the village.

“Well someone sure is putting up a fight. My bet’s on Danak and Lou.” Grant marveled, making an educated guess based off of who he thought to be the best fighters in the area.

As they continued a shadow covered them from an alley, followed by Nick being pushed aside. Grant had been blocking the young man’s view on the left and the alley had been on that side, meaning Grant was the only one able to react.

He tried to defend himself by swinging his sword, but Grant was ultimately too slow, getting cut in half from his shoulder down to his hip by a giant axe.

Nick had spent a lot of time with Grant, both for training and just general activities. The man had one hell of a poker face and was unmatched in throwing competitions. Nick grit his teeth so hard they could crack under the pressure and, seeing that the enemy’s axe was stuck in the building from the large swing, lunged forward.

The almost seven foot tall enemy met the tip of Nick’s sword with the palm of his hand after letting go of his axe, to which the sword cruised straight through. The invisible force was deactivated, meaning the weapon had gone straight into the palm of his hand, through his arm to his elbow. The enemy clenched his hand, hoping to break the sword, but little did he know it had unique properties. It’s condition would never worsen and it could never break. He was also severely weakened because there was a sword in his arm.

One of its other attributes was teleportation. Nick let go with his right hand and summoned the weapon into his left while closing the gap and placing himself right in front of the man’s chest. He pierced the thick leather armour easily, followed by a layer of skin. As he saw red Nick quickly activated the force around his sword, coming to his senses and following his beliefs.

He took a step back, pulling his sword with him. No matter how he felt, he wasn’t going to kill someone, so he spun and smashed his weapon into the enemy’s head with such force it may have broke his jaw. The man slumped against a building since the alley was quite small. Nick raced to check the pulse of his enemy just in case. Once it was confirmed the giant man was still alive Nick slumped to his knees as his legs went weak. While he wasn’t too informed on it’s exact abilities, Nick had to assume activating the field around his sword while it was in a wound near the heart put some sort of strain on the organ, but that was the last thing on his mind right now.

He looked on with tears in his eyes at his good friend lying dead near him. Grant may have been more than double Nick’s age, but he was great to be around. He was like the uncle that was always messing around despite his age.

While Nick was ready to mourn, he unfortunately wasn’t in the clear yet. Through the sound of roaring flames there was a clash of weapons nearby. Nick brushed his hand across Grant’s face, closing the man’s eyes before forcing himself up and carrying on. Using the bodies of people he didn’t know as a visual aid, he began heading towards the sound of battle, rubbing his eyes with his arm.

Rushing along what could be considered the main road, the road the carriage had taken earlier, Nick shortly arrived at the centre of the village. Just as Grant had predicted, Danak and Lou were putting up one hell of a fight. Between them they’d probably killed at least forty of the attackers, but now they were being cornered.

As if everyone dying was caused by Nick being around, he had arrived just to see Danak lose his footing and get a dagger in the eye, the tip barely sticking out of the other side due to its short length, killing him instantly.

Both Nick and Lou reacted, Nick breaking into a sprint to join the fight and Lou turning to attack her dad’s killer. Unable to make it in time, the young man instead threw his sword at the mercenary aiming for Lou’s back.

He hit his target, but only in the arm. It was enough, though, as Lou jammed her short sword into the enemy’s neck. With her off hand she grabbed his head to keep it in place while she cut sideways, blood gushing out and over her face. Two inches of skin and flesh was all that was keeping the man’s head attached to the rest of his body.

Because of her actions she was now blinded as the red liquid managed to get into her eyes, also staining her light brown hair a shade of red. But she had nothing to worry about as Nick fought off some members of the group blocking his path to her, and quickly tackled her into the door of the house that Danak and Lou had been backed up against.

Due to her temporary blindness Nick had to make sure she knew it was him.

“Lou, it’s me! We’re leaving!” Nick shouted as he hurried to get her up.

She froze hearing his voice, tears forming in the corners of her eyes as expected. Nick considered it a good thing as it would probably wash out the blood and allow her to see again.

He dragged her by the arm through the house, Red Cross members following behind them through the cramped space. They entered a room which thankfully had a window. He toppled a bookcase and moved the bed around to block the door he’d closed once they were inside.

“They’re all dead…” She cried.

Nick hit the wooden shutters blocking the window with his sword’s hilt, breaking it open so they could get out. He then went back to Lou and wiped her eyes with his sleeves as the attackers began banging on the door. Her vision was blurry from the tears and tinted red because of the blood, but she could see a little now.

“We’re getting out of here, I promise.”

She responded with a nod, albeit one that seemed defeated, like she was just agreeing because she had to.

They clambered outside and worked their way around the house, running in the rough direction Grace and Jud should be. They took off as fast as their legs could carry them, but it wasn’t long before they ran into more trouble.

A man wearing a metal mask and a hooded cloak to hide his entire body stood on the path leading out.

“You’r-.”

But Nick didn’t get to finish that sentence. The masked man drew two daggers and, being surrounded by green orbs about the size of a baby’s fist, lunged himself forward at an incredible speed. He practically hovered above the ground, just skimming it enough to kick up a trail of dust behind him.

Nick pushed Lou, who almost had her vision back to perfect, away while he stumbled the opposite way. He was only able to respond thanks to the distance between them in the first place. If this masked enemy had been any closer they’d both be dead.

The masked man immediately targeted Nick who hadn’t been given enough time to recover his stance but had summoned his sword to his hands, allowing him to block the attack by the daggers. But it was to no avail as a strong gust of wind backed up the daggers, sending Nick flying at 50 miles an hour into a house, kicking up clouds of dust.
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