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Andromeda did a flip over the guards, ending in a spin that turned her once again into a shuriken barreling down the hallway. The goblins that were pressing on the human guards were scattered with ease, and while the guards stared on with awe, Maid One and Maid Two pushed their way past them and followed after their mistress. Although it seemed like Andromeda could do it herself, the poor twins had a feeling that if they didn’t act alongside her, she’d definitely punish them severely!

After having been used as toys by goblins, for the pair of them to fear such a fate showed the impression that Andromeda had already formed in their minds. She had broken and was reborn as a war goddess, cutting through crowds of enemies with skill. Although, her level didn’t even hold a candle to their King, who had been a sleeping dragon that had only suddenly awakened and displayed its terror.

Even though Bloodbane had given them a command to attack the troll, that didn’t mean he stood idle. His focus was on the skeletons. Up until now, he had never fought a skeleton, so he wanted to see just how hard their bones were.

To him, a creature like skeletons made very little sense. Undead were slow and dumb because their brains were rotten and their muscles were shattered. Skeletons neither had brains nor muscles, so why were they faster? Perhaps, skeletons were only run by magic, and in the case of zombies, the body and mind got in way of the magic. The only reason such things went through Bloodbane’s mind was that only by understanding an opponent, can you more successfully kill it. Bloodbane wasn’t a fool when it came to these things, and even as he jumped into the group of skeletons, he made sure to test different methods.

His blade flashed. Some skeletons he destroyed their spines, while others he cracked their skulls. He was looking for the most efficient moves to bring them down. With the support of the soldiers, who were admittedly only helpful as a distraction, he was able to take out the enemies in fifteen seconds. This was why he had also given the maids only fifteen seconds to defeat their opponent. Although he had threatened to leave them after, he actually couldn’t afford to lose these allies. That didn’t mean he wasn’t going to push them, and punish them if they let him down.

It turned out that wasn’t necessary. By the time the last skeleton died and he diverted his attention to the troll, it had already collapsed to its knees, blood burbling out of its mouth. Bloodbane let out a laugh, walking back into the crowd of men. Those that weren’t watching him with their mouths open were eyeing the three maids as they returned from the troll. Without the support of the troll and the skeletons, the goblins had grown confused. With the maids on one side and the soldiers on the other, they quickly were slaughtered, but to the majority of the soldiers, this felt like an afterthought.

They had all gone from nearly dying to having won by an overwhelming victory. This change hadn’t been brought by themselves, but by their king and lord, a man they had actually been cursing only minutes before. The difference between that man and the one before them was far too much for these soldiers to process. Even after looking several times, they were unable to register that this youthful and unstoppable hero was the coward king.

The one who was able to recover first was the man in charge. Although he didn’t necessarily understand what was going on, he was a soldier loyal to the nation and was used to following orders that he didn’t necessarily understand. He fell to one knee and bowed to his king. This man had saved his men, and that was enough to be worthy of him kneeling.

“My lord. I am Sergeant Greeves from the ranger division, awaiting orders.”

“Good,” Bloodbane acknowledged him. “You’re at least capable of still following orders. In that case, our first mission will be to head toward the front gate and seal it. We must secure the castle, collect our forces, and then push the enemy past the wall.

“M-my lord!” The man looked up, his mouth falling open. “You can’t seriously think that we can retake the city?”

“I will fight to retake this city until it is retaken or I am dead.”

“Sir… we might be able to retreat into the mountains.” Another man spoke up as the maids made their way into our circle.

“You know how long this war has been going. You know how far it has progressed. Do you honestly think there is anywhere we can truly retreat?” Bloodbane demanded.

The man lowered his head, a flash of shame on his face. If even the cowardly king could reprimand him for suggesting retreat, then what did that make him? Similar thoughts came across all of these men who had sworn if they survived this last battle, they’d also be running. Now, with just a few words spoken, not a single one of them felt like doing so.

Bloodbane looked across all of the men. They were bloodied, broken, and beaten down. They had downcast faces that seemed to have lost all hope. With a spin straight and a will unyielding, Bloodbane spoke slowly and clearly, so that every man present could hear him. He wasn’t a man who repeated himself.

“The mountains are inhospitable. We may be able to survive today, but what about tomorrow? This city is our home. We will fight to keep it. This is where we make our stand. With blood, we will pay for every inch, and we will make them pay more! I can not promise us victory, but I promise they will experience defeat. If you follow me, you will have a chance. Not a chance to live. Not a chance to survive. You will have a chance to fight. To avenge. To take back. To become more powerful. I do not offer you salvation! I offer you endless blood and sacrifice! Follow me like a man, or flee like a coward. Make your decision now.”

Bloodbane’s speech was short, but it was poignant. Everyone could feel the strength and determination in his voice. Andromeda looked up at him with an adoring look. At this point, Bloodbane might as well have become her everything. It wasn’t clear if any part of the simple maid Anne remained. As for Maid One and Maid Two, they had a distinct feeling that the offer to leave wasn’t being extended to them. They had already lost everything, so surviving a bit longer didn’t appeal to them anyway. If they had to spend their last moments of life slaughtering the same creatures that had ruined their bodies, then that was the choice they would make.

After a few moments of muttering and indecision, it was once again the sergeant who stepped forward first. “I will fight for my lord and my city. I shall lead the way.”

Bloodbane nodded, but then stopped. “Allow me to provide you some strength. Grab my hand.”

Bloodbane pulled out his hand. If the maids were able to turn into such magnificent warriors from nothing, then what effect would the Path of the King have on an already existing warrior? He needed power above all else, and he didn’t have time to be choosey. He was willing to take anyone that showed loyalty and skill. He wasn’t able to test this soldier as intently as he did Andromeda, but someone didn’t become a sergeant because they were useless.

The man only glanced at Bloodbane’s arm a moment before grasping it. In his mind, this was just a strange formality the king was demanding. In truth, he had never dealt with the king often. As a ranger, he was more suited for being outdoors. He was one of the few who had seen the undead coming. He’d been the one sent back to get the Capital warning. None of the men from his unit, or any of the other ranger units, had survived. He might be the last ranger living in the city.

Since then, he had fought on the outer wall, the inner wall, and in the castle. It was pure luck that he had survived these encounters. One might say he was wizened at this point, more familiar with the cruelty of war than any other. He had been there to vividly see their great general, Hamed, killed and the Queen Leah raped in front of their gates. It was a humiliation like no other. The weight of the last few days pressed on his shoulders deeply. To take the arm of the king gave him a peculiar feeling, but that was it.

“I will make you a warrior,” Bloodbane said, clinging to his arm.

While Greeves raised an eyebrow, Bloodbane frowned. He frowned because there was something that did flash in front of his eyes.

{You do not have a Warrior position of power available.}

It appeared that the current positions were a one-time use. The maid had taken the position of the warrior. As he leveled, he could only assign one person to each position. Instead of making three warrior factions, he’d have to create more variety. As he was thinking this, his hand held Greeves’s hand, and the soldiers around him were muttering to themselves, wondering if he was still sane.

“You said you were a ranger?” Bloodbane asked after a moment, eyeing a bow that Greeves had on his back.

“Ah… yes, sir.” Greeves nodded.

He still carried his bow just in case, but it had all but been abandoned for a sword. He wasn’t so great of a marksman to hit targets in a small corridor. It was best if he was in a tower and aiming down at a group of enemies. That was when he could reveal his greatest fighting potential. In these cramped corridors, a short sword served him much better. However, he just couldn’t abandon this bow either.

“Very well, I will assign you as a Scout!” Bloodbane announced.

The magic took this time, and a bright light exploded from Sergeant Greeves’s body. He gasped as he was inexplicably covered in light. His body shone for several moments, and his armor exploded and then remade itself. His weapon appeared to do the same, making Bloodbane wonder if had the maids been holding daggers when he did the upgrade, would they have much better weapons available to them now. It was too late to wish for such a thing.

When the light faded, the men looked on in wonder toward their leader, who looked far more impressive than a moment ago. All of his haggardness had faded away. His body was tone and muscular, and his armor was a much finer cut with a focus on leather and moveability. The thing that had made the most noticeable difference though was his bow. It had originally been a rather plain wooden bow. Although it had sentimental value to Greeves, no one else would have seen it as anything special.

Now, it was larger, with an impressive grip, and made of white wood. The string was thick and could deliver an attack much stronger than the previous bow. It also looked ornate, something that a general or leader might wield. The short sword in his hand, however, hadn’t changed much at all. It was a little nice and shinier, but it hadn’t gone through a qualitative change like the bow.

“My lord…” The man breathed wide, pulling the bow from his back and sheathing his short sword. “I feel… much stronger now.”

“If you say status, you should be able to see the Path of a Scout. You will be able to grow stronger. You may also select subordinates. Pick two of your most trusted men and give them the positions if you want. It seems like they should have some outdoor knowledge and be familiar with a bow. You are now Lieutenant Greeves, the head of my scouts.”

“Yes, my lord!” He bowed as his body glowed slightly.

He quickly selected two men from the group of survivors. They didn’t look apprehensive at all. After seeing their leader’s promotion, they all felt a rise of excitement. They didn’t know how any of this was done, but they were much more confident now. With a king like this that could make them more powerful with a wave of his hand, how could these men not be excited?

The last week had been the bleakest and darkest days of their lives. They had all seen family and friends perish. Just when all hope was lost, there was a ray of sunshine. Even if it was a weed on a cliff, they would grab it rather than fall. Now, hope filled these men like a river filled a decanter. Those that didn’t get selected made tight fists, hoping to one day be granted such power. This wasn’t a day to be petty or jealous. If they were better or more trusted, they would have been granted this power. Either way, anyone getting more power meant all of them were more likely to survive.

They also truly wanted this power. They could guess just how formidable their sergeant had become. They had seen the maids and reasoned that they had similarly gone through such a transformation. Even if it didn’t make them any stronger, it seemed to increase their stamina and wash away the exhaustion that had melted into their bones. That alone was something these men would pay any price to receive.

Once three scouts had been created, Greeves and his men led the way. Bloodbane followed behind him, only staying back a few steps as he surveyed the place. When a group of goblins appeared, Greeves pulled back his bow without drawing an arrow. A light arrow appeared nocked in his bow, and he was firing before most of the troops had even realized there was a monster present. The light flashed, piercing through the goblin’s head and causing it to burst in an eruption of blood.

The other two rangers did not have bows and instead raced forward with their swords, which were still a bit better than the blades of the maid team. The maids also ran forward as well, attacking the goblins without reserve. Greeves immediately pulled back on his bow again after launching an arrow, only making another appearance. Within a moment, he was releasing another arrow and another. He fired them at an insanely quick rate, and five of the ten goblins perished by his hand. Andromeda, who had only managed to fell two before the last one died, shot him a defiant look. Greeves gave a helpless shrug.

“Master, my Path of the Warrior has increased.” Andromeda suddenly announced. “I will be able to have five subordinates now.”

She was looking at Bloodbane carefully. He was just about to say that she could do whatever she wanted, not understanding why she was even wasting time telling him this. Then, he noticed that her eyes were flickering to the men present. He started to understand. To maximize our fighting ability, it would make sense if she assigned her subordinate abilities to trained men who could fight. However, she didn’t seem to want to do that, so she checked with Bloodbane whether it was acceptable or not.

Bloodbane nodded. “You wish to find your own subordinates?”

“I would like to keep them as women.” She explained.

There were a few mutters from the men behind me, who had grown hopeful when they heard that more positions of power were available, and a bit upset when they found none of them would be selected because they weren’t the gender of the leader. Even Bloodbane didn’t know what Andromeda was thinking, but he wasn’t a man who would micromanage.

“Do as you wish.” Bloodbane shrugged.

That’s exactly what she did, as a few hallways later they found a group of maids being brutally raped. The maid warriors leaped out and were especially unforgiving, chopping the goblins to pieces. There were even two trolls. Andromeda had to admit that two trolls at once might have been too much for her. If it hadn’t been for Greeves pelting them with arrows, she might not have been able to take them down. She finally gave him a reluctant nod, and then checked on the abused women. There were six in all, but two of them had already died. It had been corpses that the goblins were abusing horribly.

These women were much closer to the entrance, which meant that their abuse at the hands of those monsters was greater than what Andromeda and her group faced. All of the women stared up at the ceiling with listless eyes, barely acknowledging that they had been saved. This seemingly didn’t matter to Andromeda. She immediately grabbed three of the women and activated the subordination. The three women looked like they had been snapped out of it, looking around and at each other with wide, confused eyes.

“You’re all mine now. Do what I say, or your fate will be worse than what you’ve already experienced!” Andromeda declared in front of them.

The twins, Maid One and Maid Two, nodded their heads as the girls looked over Andromeda’s shoulder, trying to gain a bearing on what happened. The one maid who hadn’t been given a position was given to some of the soldiers. One muscular man who already had several wounds and wasn’t an effective fighter picked her up in his arms and carried her. She barely acknowledged the other girls, let alone her savior. The trauma these women experienced was truly deep.

It was difficult to say whether the ones Andromeda picked were the lucky ones or the unlucky ones. They would be given no quarter from this moment forward. They fought under her now. Every single girl had a haunted look in their eyes, but there was also a brimming degree of ferocity. They looked like wild animals, and the craziest one was their leader!

It should be noted that the two rangers assigned by Lieutenant Greeves were simply given back their original names. Meanwhile, Maid’s Three through Five were christened by Andromeda herself!

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