“What is going on?” Saria’s eyes snapped open upon feeling too much movement at the side of the bed.
I was putting my padding back on. “I’m leaving for a bit.”
Saria frowned. “Has the attack began?”
I shook my head. “No, I just have something that must be done now.”
Saria sat up, her eyes surveying the room. “What is your… maid doing in here.”
“She will be coming with me. I need help getting into my armor.”
Saria sniffed. “What’s that smell?”
“Nothing!” I stood up, tossing my leathers over my shoulder and heading for the door. “Let’s go, Aeryn.”
Aeryn didn’t even have the decency to blush. When Saria looked at her, she even met Saria’s eyes in a way that could be considered disrespectful given their differences in society. However, Saria was still sleepy and her brain was slow on the pickup. Aeryn turned and followed me, her face completely serene and without a trace of the wild beast that nearly caused me a lot of trouble earlier.
“W-wait!” Saria jumped out of bed, pulling on her dress and chasing the pair of us out the door.
I could only sigh as she caught up to the pair of us. From the moment that I had been instructed to keep Saria by my side, I knew that I would have to deal with her in this situation. There was no helping it at this point though. I walked through the hallways, heading down to the courtyard of the diplomatic quarters.
“Where are we going?” Saria demanded.
I held up my finger to my mouth and then kept moving. She gave me an aggravated look, but she continued to follow me. It was dark out now, and most of the guards and watch had been redirected to the wall. I stopped in the center of the courtyard for a moment.
“Yes?” Her disembodied voice came from everywhere and nowhere.
“Anything to report?” I asked.
“Eh? No, nothing? The undead should be coming soon, but I still don’t detect them magically.”
“Would you be able to tell if your magical sensing was being blocked somehow?”
“What? They’re just an undead army. How could they think to do something like that? Even if they were smart enough to think of something like that, they’d need to get really close-”
“Baba… just check to see.”
“What are you looking for?” Saria demanded.
I shrugged. “Just a feeling. You said it a few hours ago.”
“Damn it!” Baba’s voice came from right behind me this time.
I turned around to see her there with an angry expression on her face.
“Did you find anything?”
“My magic sense is being screwed with!” Baba said, “This kind of interference should be impossible unless-“
“Unless it was coming from within the walls.” I nodded. “Come on, let’s go.”
Without another word, I took off in a quick jog. My emotions were a bit complicated at the moment. I was right, but I wasn’t particularly happy I was right. The location I was heading was the gate into the diplomatic region. This was the gate under Baba’s watch. However, Baba wouldn’t sit outside at the gate physically. She’d trust her magic senses to warn her if something was coming. That normally wouldn’t be an issue, especially considering out enemies were a mindless group of undead.
This meant that someone who knew Baba plotted to have her blinded. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the undead army was quite a bit closer than everyone thought. The night was cloudy, and the stares and moon were completely swallowed. This made it a particularly dark night. Upon reaching the gate, we saw several watch guards, except rather than guarding the gate, they were opening it.
I pulled out my sword and immediately went for the gate controls. Baba, who looked very agitated, floated up in the air. Several lightning bolts flickered out striking a few of the guards and catching them by surprise. However, the lightning also illuminated outside the doorway, and a massive horde of undead could be seen only twenty meters away from the door.
“Shit!” I cursed just as I cut down the two men at the gate.
I started rolling it back, but I barely made it a few turns before the weight of a few hundred undead creatures slammed into the door. The crack was enough to let in a dozen at a time.
“Baba! Ring the bells! Aeryn! Run to the other gate and make sure it closes. Close it on us if you have to!”
“Okay!’ Baba flew off to the center of town.
“Yes, Master!” Aeryn turned and ran off to the gate to the city.
If the other gate could be closed, we’d only lose the diplomatic quarters.
“David! They’re getting through!” Saria cried out.
More and more undead flooded to the gate, and I was unable to stem the tied. I was using all of my strength just to keep the doors from flinging open for a moment longer. However, the dead who did make it through were spreading out, and there was almost a hundred already heading in our direction.
“Damn it, let’s go!”
I let go of the door and watched helplessly as the force pushed them the rest of the way open. Thousands of undead were flooding in. I grabbed Saria’s wrist and took off in a run, jumping off the gate platform and racing off down the courtyard. Most of the monsters here appeared to be zombies or skeletons. Fortunately, there was nothing with a long-range weapon, so as long as we dodged them, we were able to keep moving. A few moments later, the bells started ringing, and the sounds of yelling started cropping up all over the city.
“What are we going to do?” Saria demanded breathily, unused to the physical rigors of running.
I looked around both ways. The undead were covering the diplomatic quarters quickly. They’d soon be on the far gate.
“Do you remember that fireball Bala pegged me with all those months ago?” I asked.
Saria looked at me suspiciously. “Yeah? Why?”
“Can you do something similar?”
Saria sniffed. “I have excellent elemental control. My fireballs are even more impressive than Bala’s!
“Then fire one right there!”
I pointed at an innocuous-looking building.
“Just do it!”
Caught by surprise at the urgency in my voice, she didn’t hesitate to summon and fire a ball of flame straight at the building. Dropping my hand, she started making a wide arc with her fingers while chanting something. Within five seconds, a massive ball of fire was forming in her hands. She threw her hands out towards the building, and the fireball flung out with a powerful force that made the air woosh past my ears. It struck the structure hard, nearly knocking it off its base with just the flames alone. A few seconds later there was a massive explosion which took Saria’s breath away.
The explosion seemed to spread out quickly, covering a large portion of the courtyard. No, that wasn’t right. There was something that leaked out of the location where the building used to be, and fire seemed to be falling it.
“Don’t think too much, it’s just a place they store oil for lanterns and such. The undead are dumb, so this explosion might keep that at bay for a few minutes, but they’ll soon find a way around the fire. We need to get to the gate and hope we can get to the other side.”
“Okay… and what if we can’t?” Saria’s expression looked somewhat scared for the first time that I had ever seen.
However, even now, I couldn’t bring myself to lie to make her feel better. “Then you better have a lot of fireballs.”
Nodding to herself, she brought out her hand for me to take. I nodded, grabbing her again, and then the pair of us proceeded to run for the front gate. As it came into sight, I noticed it was still open and cursed.
“it’s open!” Saria cried out, although she sounded happy by this fact.
I had sent Aeryn to close it. Since it wasn’t closed, that meant that there was trouble. She was still alive. I had a strange feeling that thanks to our bond, I would know if she died. However, for some reason, the gate was still open.
“B-brother!” Lucy rushed outstanding in the middle of the gate. “Thank the gods you made it. The undead came. It all happened so fast, and then…”
“Fireball!” I ordered, pointing directly at Lucy.”
“Wh-what?” Saria said in startlement.
“Shoot it now!” I put the same urgency but my command was too cold for Saria to listen.
Lucy heard my words, and her innocent and worried expression disappeared as she put on a vicious sneer. “Brother, you wound me… how did you know!”
She pulled a sword, and by pure instinct, I shoved Saria away. She let out a cry as she tumbled, but barely a second later, my sister Lucy flashed toward me a struck with her sword. My movements flashed too, but I only barely managed to deflect her strike before I was sent flying back twenty feet.
“Wh-what is going on?” Saria gasped.
“Damn it, I hate it when I’m right,” I growled, getting back up to my feet. “So, you were a saboteur planning to destroy this city all along!”
Lucy let out a laugh. “Did you like that message I sent you ahead of time. Don’t go to Perang? I had hoped you’d remain so focused on thinking it was a human element, you’d never realize the beastkin were making their move!”
“So, it was you after all!” Saria’s eyes narrowed. “I knew it!”
Lucy shrugged. “Sometimes, the most obvious answer is the greatest cover. As soon as I learned brother was heading to the elf nation, my beastkin brethren planned to make this place your grave. I didn’t personally want to kill you myself, but after finding out you were a will user, I realized that there was no one else who could take you on. I’m pleased to see you have almost no training at all.”
“So, what’s your plan? Sneak into the city, open the gates and let the undead wipe out all the evidence? Then claim, what? It was an elvish ploy?”
“Something like that.” Lucy shrugged. “I’ve been trained as a will user since the day I reached Benatang. It’s what the beastkin are best known for! I will hold this gate until the undead flood the city.”
“What of me? Do you plan to kill your brother? Even after I saved your life?”
Lucy’s expression twisted for a second. “You… you hardly saved my life. I had everything handled. Admittedly, you made it easier to get into the city. In truth, we had planned this attack a long time ago, your presence only sped up our plans. Your life or death won’t affect the outcome of this war much at all.”
I raised an eyebrow in surprise. “So, you won’t kill me?”
Lucy sniffed. “I won’t kill you, but I won’t let you save this city either! If you have the strength, then you’re welcome to escape that way!” She pointed to the exit. “It’s a kindness my people wouldn’t give you.”
“Your people? The humans are your people!”
“My father may have been a human… but I have been a beastkin since the day I was born, just as you are a devil. There is no changing that! The humans hate and look down on my kind. If I wasn’t their princess, they would have been just as happy making me their slaves or servants to spit at and look down on. They don’t deserve my loyalty or my mercy. The humans are a race of arrogant weaklings! They are relics of an old world. It’s time for me to help bring on a new world. A world without humans, or devils, or demons. We can all finally live in peace once we rid the world of users of the dark magics.”
Since humans were known for being able to cast all types of magic, it looked like some of the other races looked down on them as being like devils. After all, they could use some of the dark magics devils used. Then again, wasn’t necromancy pretty much a dark magic, yet the beastkin seemed to have no qualms about using that. It looked like even in this world there was no shortage of self-righteousness and hypocrisy. By the look in Lucy’s eyes, I could see that there was no reasoning with her. She was hellbent on seeing a war between the humans and the beastkin.
“You think the beastkin have accepted you?” I sneered. “They’re just using you.”
“At least they didn’t trade me away like father did! I’d rather be used than be tossed away! All so his devil son could grow up peacefully. You’re an abomination! Face it, our father threw me out for you!”
I bit my lip until I tasted blood, “I won’t throw you out.”
“Sister, you’re my family. I’m not going to toss you aside, and I’m not going to let the beastkin use you as some pawn in their war!”
“You have no choice! You’re not strong enough to stop me and close this gate.”
“Let’s see if that’s the case.” I held up my sword, moving into an attack stance.
“Brother, I have given you a chance to live, but do not confuse that for an unwillingness to kill you. As far as I’m concerned, our debts are square!”
My blade flashed with will and I leaped at her. She moved at the same time, far smoother and quicker. It was time to roll the dice. She had already chosen to go against the beastkin orders and allow me to escape even though they wanted me dead. How important was family to her? Was her previous behavior all an act? I dropped my sword.
As it fell to the ground, her eyes followed it instinctively, however, I pulled every last ounce of will and closed the distance. I was too close for her to bring her sword down. She jumped back while pulling a knife from her belt. She struck out with it. Our eyes met, and in hers were not anger or retribution, but fear and surprise. I grabbed her collar and pulled her to me. Her knife faltered and struck me in the side. My lips pressed against hers.
The momentum carried through, and Lucy fell back, landing on the ground with me on top of her. Our lips were pressed together tightly. I pulled away, my blood lips wearing a tight grimace as the pain of the knife in my side spread through my body. Lucy pushed away from me, looking confused and distraught. She wiped the blood from her mouth and stood up.
“Wh-wh-why did you do that?” Lucy said, her previous headstrong demeanor completely destroyed.
“Why indeed…” I said, wincing as I yanked her knife from my side with a grunt, trying to apply pressure.
“Devil… blood.” She touched her lips again and then sneered. “You think you can ensnare me? The beastkin have fought the devilkin on the front lines for years. We were always at the forefront of the battle against your kind. We know your tricks. Don’t think there aren’t treatments for this curse!
I shook my head, “Not a curse… a reminder. You’re mine.”
Lucy’s face turned red. “Wh-what does that mean? Is that a threat? No… why is my heart beating so fast… enough! It’s too late anyway! The city is destroyed. I’ve already won!”
Lucy pointed to the gate. Undead had made it and we’re now passing on into the city.
“Lucy, you can still stop this. Help me.” I said, forcing myself to my feet.
Lucy backed away several steps as if she was afraid I would touch her again. “Stay away! I won’t listen to you! You’re just a stupid… stupid… stupid!”
“Once this city falls, the war begins!” Lucy said, sputtering, “I hope you die in it!”
She suddenly burst into tears and then spun away, racing into a crowd of undead. They ignored her, so she must have had some kind of artifact on her that made them ignore her.
In out ensuring fight, the number of zombies in the courtyard in front of the gate had grown exponentially. Saria ran over to me, and I put an arm around her shoulder.
“Thank you…” I said.
Saria stiffened. “This… this is just… because you’re my fiancé… and… stuff…”
Saria was suddenly acting very shy. Lucy acted weird too immediately before she ran away. I wondered if there was something in the air that was causing the women to go strange. We walked to the gate and I stopped, preventing Saria from moving forward. Reaching out, I knocked on thin air. There was a wooden thumping sound coming from my hand. Saria let out a noise of alarm. A moment later, a rope was swung over the edge of the gate, which suddenly appeared closed.
“A-an illusion!” Saria gasped.
“You saw what you wanted to see,” I explained, tying the rope around me and getting a good grip of Saria. “Hold tight.”
Saria wrapped her arms around me, but she held me even tighter than I felt was strictly necessary. Plus, she kept her face hidden as we were raised up to the top of the gate. When I had my feet on the other side from the horde of undead, I breathed a little easier. Saria parted away, and I saw Aeryn staring at me with her usual cold expression.
“Thank you, you did admirably.” I nodded.
Aeryn nodded, but if she was going to say anything, it was immediately interrupted.
“Hmph… that illusion wasn’t bad.” Baba stepped out from behind her. “I’ll give 2 stars.”
“Do you mind healing this wound?” I asked, moving my blood hand off the fresh cut.
“Ah! You’re bleeding! I’ll take care of it!”
“W-wait, why are you licking it!”
“Because it’s tasty!”
“Stop it, you old lolibaba! Just heal me quickly!”
“Relax! What’s your hurry?”
I sighed and looked over to the north. “I still have a gate to defend.”