“Goddammit!” Renee shouted, drawing a look of concern from Meg
and Yuki, an eye roll from Molly and laughter from Kathryn.
always you, isn't it?” Kathryn said, amused. Night had fallen
and the girls were unpacking, preparing for the inevitable fight
over who would end up sleeping on the floor. Frank had secured
three rooms at the inn. Each room was only meant for four.
designated room for the (non-Reggie) girls hadn't even gotten to
that point. They were still sifting through the bags that had
been teleported in.
did all the teleporting,” Molly said calmly. “If something's out
of place, take it out on him... and let me watch.”
not out of place,” Renee said, scanning her bags one last time.
“It's missing completely. I'm missing a bag.”
that's not bad,” Meg said. “It's probably in a different room.
No need to freak out.”
I know... it's just the principal of it...” Renee mumbled,
Unfortunately, it was not in Reggie's room. That left the den of
men. Now her desire to see that bag was tempered by her fear of
the guys rifling through it. She knocked and held her breath.
what brings you to our lair?” Donovan asked, raising a
raised her voice to make sure someone other than Donovan could
hear her question. “Did you guys find an extra bag in there? I'm
in here,” Giles shouted back. “Did you check with Reggie?”
Where else could it be?”
squeezed past Donovan, still staring at Renee. “If it made the
trip, it would have to be in one of our rooms.”
be too sure. I've had bad move-in days at the school.”
but I'm only moving one set of bags to one location. I'm also
competent. You're sure you brought it with?”
fidgeted. “I always make sure I've got that one.”
shrugged. “It probably got left on the wagon then. We can check
looked down and twiddled her thumbs. “Um... I kind of need it
my toothbrush... among other things. Um... girl things.”
frowned. “Hmm... things you currently need right now?”
looked away, blushing. “M... maybe...”
around and called, “Frank!”
waited at the door while Giles explained her conundrum in far
more descriptive detail than she would have preferred. His
response was pretty simple: “You know where the wagon is, right?
Go get it.”
is the wagon?” Renee did not, in fact, know.
frowned. “Okay, both of you go.”
asked, “Is it safe?”
enough for someone who knows magic.”
Chuckling nervously, Giles replied, “Do you mean offensive
spells? Because that's not really my thing.”
me neither,” Renee added.
Frank shouted. Troy had barely been paying attention, which
meant one more description of the scenario. This time, Frank
kept it blunt. Troy shuddered at the thought of Renee's problem,
but agreed to tag along.
wasn't as if Endrell was inherently dangerous at night. Gas
lamps lit the streets and most of the people walking them were
simply heading home after a night at the bar. The fact that
there were people at all made the walk less tense than when they
anxiety came from the lack of good conversation. Renee was still
a little embarrassed about the whole trip and she and Troy had
never really talked since the breakup. At the same time, she
couldn't stand the silence.
I heard you and Molly saw Claude in town.”
startled that she had spoken to him, but didn't like the topic
and slumped his shoulders. Sullen, he replied, “Yeah. Probably
telling the Hageshoni all about us right now.”
I'm impressed you two were able to control yourselves like that.
We probably wouldn't be able to stay at that inn if we tore up
the dining room fighting him.”
guess,” he mumbled. “We still shouldn't have let him go.”
matter either way. I never cared for him much either, but I can
see why Molly let him off.”
“Detaining him would be a pain,” Giles said. Troy and Renee
looked over at him. He was several strides ahead and hadn't
given any indication that he was listening in.
gave him time to tune out again before asking Troy, “So how've
He was a little surprised at the change in topic, and that
anyone had bothered to ask given the recent silent treatment. He
shrugged and answered, “Fine.”
frowned. “Seriously? You're really okay with everything?”
what it is.” Hands in his pockets, he kept walking, not facing
her. “I'm a big boy. I'm not going to sit around and mope just
because everyone I thought was my friend sides with Molly.”
say it like that.” Renee wasn't all that inclined to look at him
either. “It's like you don't care why this happened. Or that
Kathryn and I are happy about any of this. The whole thing
devastated her.” She stopped. “Broke my heart too.”
stopped as well, struggling not to look back at her. He didn't
want her to see the sneer on his face. “Then why'd you do it?”
Then he kept walking.
had to hustle to follow. “That's why we did it, Troy,”
she practically shouted. “Why do you have to be so cold about
everything? You lost your best friend. You lost me. And you go
on pretending there's nothing wrong.” She surpassed him and
stepped in front of him, forcing herself into his eyes. “Molly
may not think so, but I know that you care about this. You
wouldn't have ignored the MST and gone after me if you didn't.
But if you keep playing the good soldier and don't show that
again, you're going to be just as ignored and isolated as
Donovan.” She sighed, turned around and kept walking. “And at
least he has minions.”
watched her for a moment. It was a lot for him to process, and
it took some time for him to decide not to. He called back, “At
least I have my dad. All these years and I finally have his
respect. That means a lot to me.”
stopped walking, only to say, “Troy, my dad respects me too. I
didn't have to kill anybody to earn it.”
she could continue, she heard an interested hum from Giles. He
had stopped a few paces ahead, admiring something on the wall.
Renee approached him, suddenly bashful. “Uh... sorry about that.
I forgot you were with us.”
shook his head, not turning away from the wall. Smiling, he
said, “Oh, I wasn't paying attention. I don't care about your
little spat. I was checking out this neat Soviet-style
Furrowing her eyebrows, Renee looked at it. 'Soviet-style' was
underselling it: if not for the bold-faced instruction to appear
at the next day's rally, it could have been ripped from a Moscow
street sixty years ago.
new...” Renee mumbled.
Apparently, someone had been busy that night. Giles, Renee and
Troy found several more posters on their way to the wagon and
back. They were not all the same poster, but they all had the
same thing- imagery of the hard-working masses and pleas to take
a stand and fight for a better life. Given how they had found
out about the rally through a stranger's whisper, such overt
promotion of the event was alarming.
was so impressed by the artwork that he wanted one as a
souvenir. He also wanted to show it to Frank, but that was a
secondary concern. Troy used a heat spell to loosen the bonding
and Giles carefully took a poster off the wall. There were
plenty more left.
morning at the inn, Frank was neither surprised nor impressed.
“Of course they would put these up. They can't expect everybody
in town to hear about this rally through word of mouth.”
just odd that they're up now and weren't the first time we went
through,” Giles said.
really. The Hageshoni goons probably take them all down every
morning. I bet everything you saw last night is gone now.”
Giles was about to mention that they had yet to see one of these
Hageshoni goons that were theoretically swarming the city,
Donovan let out a slow chuckle from the window. “It would seem
the goons are still asleep. The calls for revolution continue.”
went to the window. Not only were posters still up, they covered
every available surface along the street. Townspeople were
looking at them, discussing them with companions as they walked
good though, right?” Troy asked. “I mean, we want them to
revolt, don't we?”
Frank replied. “But the Hageshoni don't. Even if they were
confident in their ability to stop this, they shouldn't be
tolerating this much. Once the folks here realize they want
freedom, they won't quit.”
not a bad thing.”
grinned. “The demons must have a good hand to not show their
“Exactly. But it doesn't help us figure out what we're dealing
should do some investigating then,” Giles said. “You know, see
if we can learn anything.”
scratched his chin. “What about the rally?”
of us really need to be there? Is it even a good idea for all of
us to be there?”
true. Okay, you and Meg go out and see what you can dig up. Have
her contact me with any details. When the rally starts, see
what's going on elsewhere in town.” Frank handed the poster back
to Giles and he went to get Meg.
minutes later, they were standing outside, Meg none too pleased
about her unit volunteering for what she deemed unnecessary leg
was more into it. “All right!” Mindy shouted, pretending to
smoke on a pipe. “The mystery of the red recruitment begins!
What's our first step, Watson?”
her hand down and grumbled, “Why are we doing this again?”
there's no reason why the Hageshoni would allow these posters to
be here. Not only that, but there's something very strange about
them,” Giles said.
they're pretty modern for this place,” Renee added. “I want my
medieval fantasy back!”
and Meg looked at Renee, standing behind them. She hadn't been
there five seconds ago.
hell are you doing here?” Morgan asked.
told me to go with you guys. This sounded more fun anyway.”
it's a riot,” Meg deadpanned. “Why did she send you with us?”
rubbed her neck. “Well, that rally could be swarming with both
Hokoni and Hageshoni demons and both of them have gone after
that grimoire that's in me.
figured it was safest for me to stay away from it.” She smiled
at Giles. “So where to first, Watson?”
beat you to it,” Giles replied. “Why am I always Watson?”
suggestion would be to stake out a poster to see if anyone takes
it down during the day,” Meg said. “Preferably a poster where we
can watch from someplace comfortable... that serves alcohol.
Maybe even that unidentifiable pink meat we had at headquarters.
I'm kinda hungry.”
we can start with that, but I had something else in mind,” Giles
“Awesome. I'll buy,” Meg said, starting down the road in search
of a bar.
spent a good forty minutes wandering the town for a spot that
fit all of Meg's criteria, passing two places because Meg didn't
want to sit in the sun. They ended up passing the town square,
an open clearing in front of a large, gated palace. A number of
crates had been stacked in front of the gates to create a
makeshift stage, half-covered with a purple cloth. Some kid sat
on it, eating out of a lunch pail. It was clearly the site of
the rally. Renee was just happy there wasn't a modern public
address system installed.
finally found a satisfactory spot and they ate lunch. Giles and
Renee kept a close eye on the poster across the street while Meg
sampled several selections from Endrell's area breweries. Morgan
approved of all of them. Maple was more discerning.
up, we got orcs,” Giles said suddenly, pointing at the street.
Renee looked over her shoulder and found two uniformed orcs
marching down the street. They were bigger than the ones the
troop had encountered on their first day. The orcs had a more
rigid, disciplined stride to them, granted the first ones
weren't exactly being observed on one of their good days.
time we saw some of that Hageshoni muscle,” Meg mumbled.
you know they work with the Hageshoni?” Renee asked.
said so. Besides, check the riot gear.” They wore platemail and
holstered clubs, but Meg was close enough.
and they're orcs,” Morgan added. “Do we need to have that
they confirm my fears about the posters,” Giles said. Before
Renee or Meg could ask for elaboration, Giles watched the orcs
pass by the poster. One of them took a casual glance at it, but
they carried on without paying it much regard.
don't care at all...” Renee mumbled.
are over-confident,” Meg said. “Typical behavior for the
Hageshoni. We still haven't learned anything new.”
“Actually, I have another theory.” Giles pulled out the poster
he had stolen. “We need to read as many posters as we can, and
hopefully find somebody putting them up, but doesn't this look
off to you?”
you mean? It's full of commie goodness. That's what the Hokoni
are going for, right?”
look at the slogans. They all make good points about needing
better wages and free speech and all that.”
shook his head. “Where are all the snarling orcs on these
things? Where's the big fat businessman swimming in riches? All
these posters make political arguments supporting the working
class. There's nothing here demonizing the enemy or calling for
a divine crusade against them.”
to stop the oppressors right there,” Renee pointed.
Hokoni don't care about class warfare. They're more about
convincing people that they're superior and they need to fight
the bad guys.”
get you.” Meg had been taught all of this too, but like most
students she had never paid much attention in her demonic
your point?” Mindy, on the other hand, missed all of that.
sat back. “I don't think the Hokoni made these posters.”
should have said that to begin with.”
they didn't make them, who did?” Maple asked.
this type of thing would be more consistent with the Urayoni,”
Giles sighed. “But they aren't involved with this.”
only a second for him to realize it. He turned to Renee, who
figured it out at the same time.
we know one that is,” Renee said.
didn't mention Claude explicitly when she reported to Frank,
only summarizing the theory that the Hokoni weren't behind the
posters and explaining that they were going to try to learn
more. Frank didn't ask for elaboration, but the possibility
raised several questions about the rally. The rest of the troop
would still attend, but they'd be prepared for everything.
received one more message. It confused him, but he passed it on
to Molly anyway. “Meg asked me to tell you to call your sister.”
Molly was hard at work playing cards with Kathryn and Yuki.
hoping you'd know.” Frank turned around, not delving further.
Molly shrugged and pinched her earlobe.
sis! We needed to talk to you privately. We're assuming you
don't want Frank finding out about Claude?”
“Preferably not. What's going on with Claude?”
uh... shoot, I wish I could put Giles on to explain the deal
with the posters. He doesn't think the Hokoni made them.
advocating class warfare instead of a righteous crusade,” Molly
muttered. “Found that a bit curious myself. Dammit.”
think that's bad too?”
really care. I'm just pissed Giles figured it out first. What
does this have to do with Claude?”
he's Urayoni, right?”
snickered, drawing looks from Kathryn and Yuki, who were waiting
for her to play a card. “You think Claude might have had a hand
in the posters?”
says it's closer to an Urayoni message.”
but this is Claude we're talking about. He made my propaganda
posters for three years. I know his work. Those are far beyond
frowned. “Oh shoot, that reminds me. I need to make some for the
next school year, don't I?”
know, some student councils don't use propaganda to influence
school policy,” Kathryn mumbled.
but I got rid of Molly's secret police force. I can't do it that
shushed them as Renee said, “Well, he's our best lead so far.
We're going to try finding him, or at least hunt for some other
clues. Just wanted you to get the full story.”
Good luck.” Molly released her ear, turned to Kathryn and Yuki
and said, “It's nothing.”
and Yuki nodded and the game resumed.
people had heard about the rally, it looked like the whole town
did eventually hear about it. Not everybody turned out, of
course. Molly estimated three or four hundred in the square. For
a city of a couple thousand (also an estimate as the Hageshoni
weren't prone to conducting a thorough census), that was a good
Everybody in the troop not sleuthing around was on duty. They
also armed themselves as much as they could. While the
uncertainty about either faction's plans had them nervous, they
couldn't afford to look conspicuous or imposing to the crowd.
Almost everybody wore thin armor under their clothes, save for
Yuki (nothing in her size) and Donovan (not doing things 'the
coward's way'). Yuki also crammed two smiters into her satchel,
with Molly making two more retrievable via dimensional portal.
Kathryn kept her staff, but faked a limp and leaned on it
was to spread out throughout the square and pay close attention.
With Reggie's unit having potential ins with the organizers,
they stayed near the front, with Troy and Yuki nearby. Frank,
Molly, Kathryn and Donovan patrolled the perimeter. Donovan
interpreted 'patrol' as 'stand in the back and have the minions
front, Reggie spotted Graham and Arthur, both dressed in the
same formal attire the Hokoni wore for the Puurxan. They in turn
spotted his girls. After weaving through a few people, the two
made it!” Graham smiled at Reggie, but frowned when he realized
that Reggie was with the girls and had his arm around two of
them. “Really, all four of them?”
winked back and said, “So what's on tap?”
turned to the stage and replied, “You'll find out right about
whole unit turned to see Grandon Crostell stand before a podium.
He cleared his throat, put his hand to his chest, and started to
speak. His voice boomed to the crowd as well as any PA system
could. “My friends, thank you for coming. Being here is the
first step to a freedom that you've never known. Being here
means that you recognize that you are a victim. Being here means
that you realize that you are not powerless. Look around and see
all of the allies that are banding together. This is the day we
begin the crusade.”
as he started to speak, the murmurs hushed and eyes were on him.
As he continued, those eyes opened. Nobody but a senior Hokoni
could instill the kind of passion Grandon could with one speech.
Everybody could feel the energy of the crowd rising, an energy
that soon molded itself into anger. Reggie kept an eye on
Graham, who glanced back, a smile creeping on his face.
understood exactly what Giles meant by the posters being
inconsistent with Hokoni ideals, but Grandon made the
differences clear. There was no mention of the ruling class or
the suffering workers. Grandon kept it simple: you're the good
guys, they're the bad guys and you should stop being their
slaves. It was simple, and it resonated strongly with the
commoners of Endrell.
would have stopped there, it would have played into the MST's
hands perfectly. It was exactly what they wanted. Unfortunately,
as Frank feared, Grandon had more: “So who is it that is
responsible for stopping these monsters? Who's supposed to stop
these abuses? You may not think such an entity exists, that the
rulers of this land have absolute power. Sadly, there is such a
group. And for decades they have chosen to do nothing. As we
ride through Enriel to gain supporters, they even attacked us,
imprisoning one of my guards and brutally murdering another.”
almost shouted something right there. Yuki set a hand on his arm
to silence him. He glared at her, but held back, seething.
does it say that they would rather fight us than help us in our
shouts of “they're with them!” and “it's up to us!” rose up.
Grandon only nodded.
tried to control his anger in the front, Kathryn was merely
annoyed, and not even all that much. “That's not even close to
what happened,” she mumbled to Molly.
happened to be behind them. “This is what I was afraid of. I
better tell Troy and Reggie to lay low. If Grandon spots them,
it not bad already?” Kathryn asked, although Frank was already
it fits into our plans either way,” Molly said. “For now, it
doesn't matter who they're pissed at, so long as they're
about later on?”
had apparently finished quickly, because he said, “None of these
fools will be around by the time we're fighting. Although it's
still strange that the Hageshoni aren't here at all.”
looked around. “Yeah... you'd think they'd at least have
somebody here in case there's a riot.”
held up a finger to silence her. “Do you hear something?”
Grandon's booming voice and the multitude of sounds from the
crowd, there was a clear, persistent low grinding noise coming
from somewhere. The mass of locals must have heard it too. One
by one, they shushed each other to hear it as it grew louder.
This gave Frank, Molly and Kathryn a better idea what it was- a
hell?” Kathryn darted her head around. “Where's that coming
sounds like a plane.” Frank didn't believe himself, but looked
indeed a plane, flying low overhead. It was brown, with several
propellers on its nose and wings.
recognized and admired it immediately. “Sweet, it's like an old
World War II bomber.” Then she frowned and looked at Frank.
“That's not sweet at all, is it?”
had the pieces assembled. The posters not coming from the Hokoni
suddenly made perfect sense. He pinched his earlobe and shouted.
“Everybody get out now!” He released and grabbed Molly's
shoulder, motioning for Kathryn to do the same. “Teleport us
somewhere... anywhere.” Just as Molly did, Frank looked up in
time to see the bomber drop its payload.
got them away in time, teleporting back to the hotel. It didn't
matter where they ended up. She, Kathryn and Frank were safe and
no matter where in the city they were, they would have heard the
explosion. Horrified, Molly and Kathryn could only stare at the
cloud that rose over the buildings. Frank folded his arms and
that explains a lot,” Frank mumbled. “It's a bit much though.”
turned around, furious. “Bit much?! Those people were sitting
ducks! We gotta go back and help them!” She heaved a few breaths
and added, “The hell are they doing with bombers now?”
said, a bit much. Come on.”
was something of an unwritten rule that conflicts in worlds
based on a bygone era or outright fantasy should be resolved
using the technology of that world. Introducing modern weapons
was not only unsporting, it also had unforeseen societal
consequences that have turned once-idyllic worlds into unusable
wastelands. There was also the potential embarrassment of losing
under these tactics, as in the infamous Zukoni campaign of the
1920s when they transported in a tank, only to see it run out of
gas and destroyed by a tribe of natives wielding spears. At the
same time, there was no convention between the MST and the demon
factions enforcing this. As far as this world was concerned, the
Hageshoni must have been unconcerned about accusations of dirty
raced back, they started to hear the screams as the panicked
crowd scrambled to protect themselves. At least it meant there
were survivors. They also saw the smoke, and eventually reached
the fire. The area of impact appeared to be a nearby building
behind where they had been standing. The roof had been blown off
and the rest of the structure was burning down rapidly. Still,
it meant that if the Hageshoni had been targeting Grandon, or
even the crowd, they had missed.
this still wasn't a crisis. The force of the explosion had
gotten part of the crowd and the fire had spread to the grass in
the plaza. As Frank, Kathryn and Molly drew closer, they saw
that six orcs, all with shields and full armor, blocked the
street. They faced the crowd, fighting off anybody who attempted
to leave the square.
there's the Hageshoni goons,” Frank said. “Right on time to keep
the dissenters from scattering.”
slapped her staff into her palm. “Guess it's time to open the
held up a hand. “Hold on. I know you want to help, but we still
can't give ourselves away to the enemy.”
looked at him once, frowned, then charged ahead anyway.
“Kathryn!” Frank tugged the collar of her shirt, throwing her to
the ground. He stepped in front of her, suddenly intense. “When
I say you do not interfere, you do not interfere. Is that
just gonna let them all die in there?” Kathryn fired back, still
on the ground. She turned to Molly for support.
was neither surprised by Frank's outburst, nor ready to defy
him. Which was useful as it let her stay rational. “Sir, I
understand your point, but we do need to do something to help.”
narrowed his eyes at Molly, but relented. Sort of. “Well, then
let's take them out without them noticing.” With the orcs still
facing the square, he turned around and looked up at the burning
building. He gestured with his left hand and a large ball of
flame rushed out of the blaze. One more gesture from Frank and
it flew out and fell on the orcs. It looked natural enough, and
it gave everybody trying to run off a little extra hustle.
they got back into the square, he again declared, “Remember, no
magic.” Molly and Kathryn were barely listening. They were
surveying the wreckage, trying not to throw up at the sight of
several casualties on the ground and fiery patches of grass
waiting to consume more. Considering the size of the crowd, the
body count wasn't terrible, but the real tragedy was the number
of injured people crying for help and trying to escape the
fire... and the scattering of orcs patrolling within the square,
knocking people out at the slightest provocation.
the hell are we supposed to do if we can't use magic or fight
them off?” Molly grumbled.
heard cheering from the masses in the corner and rushed towards
it. If there was anything good going on in the square, it was a
starting point. Instead, Frank became as nauseous as Molly or
Kathryn. Donovan, Blaine and Bryce were firing spell after spell
and going to town on the orcs.
a pretty good system, actually. The minions would take out an
orc's shield and Donovan would deliver the finishing blow. Only
about half of his attempts actually did anything, but one
successful hit dropped the orc. They had apparently taken out
three or four already, and the crowd loved it. Several cries of
“our savior” and “bless you, brave wizard” arose.
me! For I will lead you to glory!” Donovan roared. The crowd
fair!” Kathryn said. She heard a grunting and turned around,
intercepting an orc's attack with her staff. As she grappled
with it, she shouted, “Hey, Frank! Secret's out now, so do you
sighed and relented, muttering, “I suppose.” Kathryn shoved the
orc forward, kneed it in the groin, and bashed it over the head
with her staff, cracking its helmet. Probably its skull too.
With more orcs approaching, Molly drew a circle on the ground
and retrieved the smiters just as more orcs entered their range.
had caught almost everybody in the crowd by surprise. Everybody
had heard the plane and the square had quieted, but the concept
of aircraft was foreign and few thought to look up. Nobody could
have expected death from above.
and his girls had seen it, however, and they reacted quickly. He
heard Frank's warning to evacuate and clamped onto Cammy in
preparation, but she had other plans. She jumped forward, found
Graham and Arthur and motioned for everybody to get behind her.
Her shield kept them on their feet when the bomb impacted the
building on the other side of the square.
smoke started to clear and the rally devolved into full chaos,
Graham was stunned, first by the bomb. “Those monsters. How
could...” Then he realized Cammy's talents. “Y... you know
she replied. “You mean you don't?”
shirked back. “Of course not!”
glowered. “And if you're not in with Sir Crostell, that must
interrupted. “Trying to make sure our friends are all right.”
She turned to Reggie. “Where are Yuki and Troy?”
looked across the stage and saw a mass of people scrambling, but
a stone wall behind them. He pointed to it. “I can guess. Care
to fetch 'em?”
saw it too. “So Sir Crostell was right. You're those spies for
that taskforce trying to stop us.”
partial credit,” Reggie replied. “Now are you going to help us
clean this up?”
“Absolutely not!” Graham pulled back. “We thank you for
protecting us, but we will never align ourselves with you
murderers.” He motioned to Arthur and they retreated toward the
are those two going?” Troy asked as he and Yuki arrived with
question would be where the big guy went,” Crystal said.
jumped off the stage as soon as he heard the plane,” Troy
replied. “Almost like he knew what was coming.” He watched
Graham and Arthur join several other similarly dressed men near
the stage as they hastily packed up for a retreat.
can't let them get away,” Troy concluded.
but we can't just leave all these people here,” Yuki said,
looking out over the suffering masses.
guys, there's seven of us,” Reggie said, half-grinning. “Girls,
stay and help out. Yuki? Troy? Come with me.”
works.” Troy turned to Yuki. “Better get those swords out.”
did, Reggie and Troy each took one and the chase began. As with
the opposite side, orcs lined the streets, preventing an escape.
At least until the Hokoni reached them. A few spells later and
they weren't a problem. The chasing agents kept their distance,
hiding behind whatever they could find and creating obstructions
when there were no orange crates to be found.
were still able to trail the Hokoni another block. Then two of
them stopped abruptly and turned into an alleyway. Graham,
Arthur, and the remaining two continued running down the street.
crap,” Troy muttered. “Now what?”
keep an eye on the loverboys. You two take the other ones,”
Yuki nodded. As Reggie took off after Graham and Arthur, Troy
and Yuki took flight, looking both ways as they crossed the
street, of course.
landed on a nearby rooftop overlooking the alley. It was on top
of a two-story building and the Hokoni didn't hear them land.
The demons just stood there, occasionally watching the street
for authority figures and mumbling to themselves.
suppose you've got one of those eavesdropping potions ready,”
handed him a vial and held up her own. “I planned ahead. Knew
they'd probably come in handy today. Cheers!”
imbibed and were soon able to hear the intense conversation
about one of them having a sore calf muscle and the others
stressing the importance of stretching out and being fit before
protest rallies that may defy local authorities. Troy and Yuki
struggled not to yawn.
later, Grandon Crostell approached them from the dead end side.
“Well, if this is how they are going to respond, we may have to
re-assess our plans.”
stand by this mission, no matter the cost,” replied one demon,
course we will. That's why we must redefine our parameters to
keep success in our sights.”
Yuki looked at each other, each raising an eyebrow. How was he
planning to conquer Enriel with corporate buzzwords?
objective is to sow the seeds that could force this world to
collapse on itself,” Grandon declared. “In that regard, tricking
them into spreading propaganda against themselves and bombing
their own people was a rousing start.”
“Excellent work, sir!” replied one cohort.
we planned!” replied the second.
grinned. “Yes, with the townspeople bound to be angry, they'll
have their hands full keeping the peace. As soon as we give the
elves and Puurxan their marching orders, we will declare victory
and return to Earth.”
couldn't believe what he was hearing. Grandon could delude his
cronies into believing anything, but clearly the Hageshoni's
aggressive response was prompting him to abandon the fight. The
townspeople suffering in the square were still unhappy and ready
to revolt, the Puurxan were still planning an attack and the
Hokoni were going to dash off and leave them all to be
the Hokoni there to supply the initial effort, the MST's mission
was as good as over as well. The MST wasn't going to be able to
supply the force capable of stopping a Hageshoni that fought
like this, and wouldn't be able to rally the locals given
Grandon's slandering ten minutes ago. All that meant the demons
would continue to abuse their power here, throw their weight
around and remain a force in multiple worlds. All because
Grandon suddenly didn't feel like playing anymore. It sickened
Hokoni group seemed ready to disperse and Grandon's orders were
absolute and signaled the end of their shop talk. Yuki tugged on
Troy's sleeve to get the hell out of there. They stood up and
turned away. Troy was ready to leave too, but couldn't just let
Grandon leave like this. As Yuki started to walk away, Troy
turned around and fired a beam of ice at Grandon's head.
Grandon's cohorts saw it and threw a shield up in time. All of
them looked up.
what the hell?!” Yuki shouted. Grandon did one better. He looked
up, fired off his trigger and sent Troy flying off the roof and
plummeting to the ground. He hovered briefly before crashing
into the dirt, just before Grandon dropped him face down.
anyone else is up there,” Grandon commanded. The other two
demons flew up to the roof. Grandon waited for Troy to lift his
head, then said, “You certainly have some gall, boy.”
he didn't fall the whole way, Troy's body still ached from the
collision with the ground. He was in no position to attack, but
he could at least speak his mind. “More than I can say about
you, quitting after one fight.”
be proud, but I'm not foolish. If they insist on defending their
territory in this matter, then we'll leave them to deal with
their population themselves. This was hardly a strategic play to
begin with, it was a matter of revenge.”
didn't budge. “So do you feel like you got it?”
narrowed his eyes. “Hardly. But we created some headaches and
forced them to clean up a delightful mess. That will have to
forced himself to his knees, Grandon cracked a smile.
“Thankfully, fate has granted us the chance to claim vengeance
on our most recently casualty.”
swift motion of his right hand, Grandon's sword flew out of its
sheath. He caught it with his left hand and pointed it squarely
at Troy. Troy jumped to his feet instinctively, but that's where
he froze as the Hokoni leader stared him in the eyes.
your sword, boy.”