“There they are,” I whispered, pointing a finger in the direction of the shadows lurking in the dark.
Kai sidled up next to me; we crouched next to the railings together, as the man squinted. “So it seems.”
“What do we do?” I asked, turning to him.
“You,” he said, turning to face me, “will go back and get the others. I will keep track of them— ensure that they do not go somewhere else.”
I knew he was wary of me— he probably thought if he left me here, there was a chance I might betray them and warn the Dark Crusaders of their ambush. I could understand his reasoning, even though I knew it was not true at all. Simply choosing to nod, I followed his orders and returned back down the hallway we came from.
It took me ten minutes to get back to the meeting point: no one else was there, of course. It hadn’t even been 30 minutes since we separated. I waited for a bit, a hand on my dagger as I kept my guard up.
Eventually, Jack and Braz returned, followed by Elda and Vinnie. We exchanged little words— I simply told them what they needed to know, asking them to follow me, and they did.
I brought them to Kai, who had gone back to the hallway out of sight from the Goblins and Humans. He nodded at my prompt arrival, then pointed a thumb at the large room beyond us.
“They entered a doorway across from us,” he said. “I’m not sure what it’s for, but it almost appears to be a storage room. If I had to guess though, it leads to where they produce and keep their enuim.”
“Good.” Jack folded his arms. “That means we can take care of two things at once. Take them out, and destroy their supply of the enuim.”
Everyone nodded in response, and I did too. However, I felt an urge to add in to what he said. “And we only kill them if necessary, right? Try to apprehend them if we can.”
Kai narrowed his eyes as he looked over at me. He frowned, but simply answered, “As unlikely as it is, that is the best possible outcome for us, yes. However, if it comes down to it, we have to kill all the Dark Crusaders. Perhaps then they’d decide against supporting the Elise.”
I was about to let the issue drop and agree with him, but he stopped me, cocking a brow.
“What’s wrong, Melas? Do you have a problem with this plan?” he asked, not bothering to mask his distrust of me.
I studied his expression for a moment, before shrugging helplessly. “Other than not wanting to make enemies of a continent-wide organization of spellcasters and get them coming after us? Not really.”
I had already done that to myself by killing Victor, but Ginah’s Crew had never clashed with them before; it was in their best interest to do as little damage to their men or never be discovered for their actions tonight so as to remain under the Dark Crusaders’ radar.
Kai exchanged a look with the other two pirates with him, before turning back to me. “Well, as long as it’s just that, then I believe we can proceed.” He then stalked off, heading down a set of stairs going to the room with the pot stills lined up in rows.
“I never said anything otherwise,” I muttered under my breath as I followed after him.
We proceeded through the darkness in silence, slowly making our approach to the room where the meeting was taking place. A dim light leaked through the crack under the closed door, and Kai stopped us from approaching it. He gestured for us to hug the wall, and we did so without a word.
The wall of the room was thick; it was made out of solid bricks, allowing little sound to escape from the other side. But the door, however, was not as effective at sound dampening. I inched slightly closer to the door, earning a glare from Kai, but I ignored him.
I could be stealthy— I knew how to be stealthy. That was how I survived so far. So I took another step.
My ears perked up as I managed to make out a few of the muffled words they were saying, and I stopped.
“…it will work,” a Human man’s voice said.
There was a brief pause, before a reply came. I recognized the accent and intonation to belong to that of a Goblin. “And that’s despite your failures? Or did you not think we’d have heard of what happened with those ships.”
The Humans gave a babble of excuses— none of which I could hear since they barely mumbled it out. The Goblin snapped back.
“Betrayed. That’s what happened. And do you know why that happens? Because you were too weak. You weren’t strong enough. No— Bahr isn’t strong enough. He decided to pursue his own goals, and now he’s asking us to help him? Ridiculous.”
“But Disciple—” someone started, but was immediately cut off.
“What was that?” a voice— a different one, not a Goblin or Human— hissed.
My eyes snapped over in the direction of Braz, whom I saw was trying to walk up to me, reaching over to tap my shoulder. He was right behind me, and while I did not hear anything, someone in the room did.
Braz froze as I tensed. I lowered a hand down, clutching my dagger tightly. The discussion in the room had fully halted, while Jack, Braz, Kai, Vinnie, and Elda prepared themselves. My heart began to race as a slow and steady footstep approached the door. The wooden door creaked open and a man’s face peaked out.
And a beam of energy went through his skull. Kai lowered his rifle, signalling at us to move. Jack drew his two short swords as Braz grabbed for his cutlass. Vinnie readied his pistol and Elda held out multiple throwing daggers in both her hands.
I glanced rapidly between the door and my allies, biting my tongue down. I sighed. This isn’t going to go well no matter what happens, isn’t it?
Before anyone else could move, I leapt across the door, sticking a hand out. The yellow spell circle finished forming, and the Force Bindings shot out. It came at a Goblin and two other figures, but the Goblin rolled out of the way. The two figures weren’t so lucky.
They shouted as the snare wrapped around them, keeping them in place while the Goblin dashed forward raising a hand. I grinned for just a moment, until I saw the spell finish forming in the Goblin’s hand. My eyes widened as I recognized the red magic circle.
A Fireball flew in my direction and I leapt to the side, ducking behind the wall. The wall exploded as I barely formed a Force Barrier in time, knocking me back as my magical shield slowly fell apart around me. I got up in a daze, as I stumbled behind a pot still to hide behind.
I placed a hand on its copper surface, stabilizing myself for just a moment. The loud ringing in my ears slowly went away and was replaced by the sound of fighting. Once I got my bearings, I stuck my head out to survey the battlefield.
It was no longer dark as light shone out of the mana lamps in the storage room, while small pockets of flame on the wall and the floor slowly snuffed out with nothing burnable to consume. I saw Jack locked in combat with two Goblins and a Human man. The Goblins used simple spells— nothing as powerful as the first one I saw, but it was still dangerous. The Human was dispatched off quickly by Jack.
I turned to Braz, Elda, and Vinnie who were surrounding the Goblin Dark Acolyte that attacked me. He was casting multiple spells at once, keeping them back as they kept him in range. Braz tried stepping in for a thrust of his cutlass, but was thrown back by a blue splash of energy— a Force Wave.
I grimaced, choosing not to help them as I hurriedly looked around the room. Where’s Kai? He was clearly a support fighter— but he was nowhere to be seen. I spun around, scanning the area for him, before I saw a flash of bright light followed by a bang.
Kai was backing up as a group of Humans, a Goblin, and another Humanoid figure as they encroached on him. He lowered his rifle, having killed another Goblin, before the first Human reached him. I reacted instantly.
Magic Missiles shot out of both of my hands. I did not stop with just two, and sent four. Then six. I sent a dozen total, and they exploded around Kai.
Three of the Humans and the last Goblin managed to get out of the way, but the rest were incapacitated or killed by the barrage of blasts. I stopped the attacks for a moment, preparing a Frost Javelin. The air turned white as the icy projectile slowly took shape, but before I could do anything with it, I saw the air ripple ahead of me.
A Wind Blade shot out at me as the Humanoid ran in my direction. I froze for a moment as the man barked out an order.
“I’ll deal with the spellcaster— take care of the man!” he growled.
There was a Dog Beastkin spellcaster? I stared in shock for a moment, before I erected an earthen wall in front of me. Concrete split open and mixed together with stone and dirt as it shot out of the ground, protecting me from the Wind Blade.
I raised both my hands, spell circles already forming on it as more of the floor broke apart to create two Stone Spears by my side. I could not see where the man went, but I knew roughly where he was. So that was where I launched the Stone Spears at.
I heard a loud crack as the first one smashed into the back wall. The second went flying right behind it, but there was no sound. Or rather, there was only the sound of bits of rocks crumbling and falling onto the floor. I felt my control over the spell dissipate, and frowned. Dispel Magic?
I was not prepared for that, so I barely put up any resistance. However, I was not going to make the same mistake again.
I dashed out of my cover, one hand held forward as a Force Barrier formed and another pre-casting the three balls of purple energy I was used to having on me. The Dog Beastkin pointed, casting another Dispel Magic. I immediately let go of my Force Barrier, leaving only the Explosive Orbs around me.
They blinked out of existence instantly. Of course they would. That was the weakness of pre-casting. And yet, I planned for that.
As he dispelled my Explosive Orbs, I pushed off my back feet, charging him and aimed a finger at the ground on his feet. A column of the floor rapidly rose up, crashing into the ceiling. The Dog Beastkin was lifted into the air for a moment, but dove off the Stone Pillar just in time to save himself.
He landed lithely on both feet just in time to duck from the Wind Blade. Finally reaching him, I held my dagger high before bringing it down to his face with all my strength. He tried to parry it with his claws, but yelped as it came into contact with my enchanted blade.
The Dog Beastkin stepped back, his finger bleeding on one hand, as he brought his other up. The air rippled once again, but instead of a thin line of wind coming at me, I saw a flicker as the air compressed into a bullet and shot out at me.
I stepped to the left, barely craning my neck out of the way as it whizzed by me. It grazed my mask, leaving a scratch on its surface as it continued its course. I nearly died!
I snapped my head back in the direction of the Dog Beastkin and stared at him in anger as he fired more Compressed Air Bullets at me; I raised both my arms to the side, pivoting out of the way— this time, prepared for the fast moving projectiles. Then, the Dog Beastkin paused as he realized what I was casting.
I held two Fireballs, one one each hand, as I stood before him.
“Dispel—” he started, but was too slow.
I threw the first one at him, followed immediately by the second. He tried to dodge, but I didn’t even need to hit him. The first Fireball exploded near him, the impact burning his right side and causing him to stagger. And he couldn’t even move before the second one engulfed him in an explosion.
I waited just to confirm that he was dead. Once I saw his burnt and blackened corpse, I turned my attention to Kai—
And he was standing over the dead bodies of the Goblins and Humans. I turned to Jack, and saw he was aiding Braz and Elda… Vinnie was dead.
The Dark Acolyte Goblin had killed Vinnie, and incapacitated Elda. He held a whip made of flames, lashing it out at Jack and Braz. Braz was struck across the chest, falling down. It was just Jack now. The rugged man tried to close the distance, spinning with his dual blades.
The Goblin parried the first swing with his own shortsword, and sidestepped the second. He let his whip disappear, and sent a Flame Wall at Jack’s back. Jack barely dodged the attack, spinning around just to see the Goblin lowering a blade at him—
The blade shattered. Shot mid strike by Kai. The Goblin snarled, kicking Jack away from him as he turned to the new attacker. But Kai was not alone.
My Frost Javelin was already soaring at the Dark Acolyte Goblin. He backed up, moving out of the way, but I only adjusted its course. I felt him contest my control over the spell, and yet it was a fool’s errand. He failed, and it came close to impaling him.
He stopped just before a wall, before leaping out of the way at the last second. I clicked my tongue, more annoyed than anything that I let that happen.
Kai fired another shot, interrupting the Goblin just before he could cast another spell. I raised my finger into the shape of a gun, and closing one eye, I trailed the Goblin as he continued dodging the suppressing fire.
He jumped, rolled, and got back up and I pushed at the air right behind him. A green magic circle appeared, slowly expanding from the size of the palm of my hand to the size of my head. It took the Goblin a moment from noticing it.
It was too late. There was no way he could dodge this attack. He was—
Fire flared at the Dark Acolyte Goblin’s feet, and he kicked himself up into the air. He flew 20 feet high without any difficulty.
The air around my spell circle burst out, sending blades of wind out in all directions. But it was pointless. The Goblin was sailing close to the ceiling, far from my new spell. And then there was a bang and he went falling.
Kai had shot him mid air. It only struck him in the shoulder, yet that was enough. That was the power of his special mana rifle.
The Goblin was tumbling back down, blood already spurting out of his wound. Just as he was about to crash into the ground, I sent a snare at him, wrapping it around him and softening his fall.
The Force Bindings crackled as it came into contact with the ground, but it absorbed the impact. He struggled on the floor, cursing, but he couldn’t dispel it. I did not allow him.
I started in the Goblin’s direction, reaching for my belt. I uncorked a healing potion as I reached him. I was about to pour it but was cut off by Kai.
“What are you doing?” he asked me, frowning.
“Keeping him alive,” I said, gesturing at the Goblin. “He’s a Dark Acolyte. If we kill him, the Dark Crusaders will not be happy.”
“We’ve already killed the rest. Keeping him alive is a risk. He killed Vinnie— and he could’ve killed Braz and Elda too.”
I glanced over the two other pirates. Jack was dragging himself over to them, pulling out his own healing potion. I turned back to Kai.
“I know.” I shook my head. “But that doesn’t matter. If—”
“Keep me alive?” the Goblin spoke over me. He glared up at me. “You’ve killed my apprentice. You killed Li Min. We’ll never forgive you for this!”
I stared back down at the Goblin— at his large yellow eyes. He was bleeding out. It was slow, not a danger to his life right now, but I probably should administer a healing potion to him soon if I wanted to keep him alive.
Kai spoke up as I debated on whether to let him live or kill him. “He’s a liability, Melas. If we keep him alive and he escapes, the Dark Crusaders will know more than they would if we just kill him and leave now.”
“But—” I was about to argue, but was stopped as the Goblin’s eyes snapped towards me.
“Melas?” he said, disbelieving at first. Then his tone shifted to that of anger, holding no hidden fury in his voice. “You’re the F—”
The Goblin stopped talking. He collapsed to the ground, grasping weakly at his throat before he fell dead. I lowered my hand, as the spell circle for Wind Blade dissipated.
Kai cocked a brow. “What was that about? You sure made your decision quick.”
I sighed. “You made a really convincing argument,” I said. “Anyway, let’s help the others and find this enuim.”
Once Jack, Braz, and Elda recovered, we took a moment to pay our respects to the dead Vinnie. Well, Jack and I just stood there awkwardly as Kai, Braz, and Elda did. The two of us barely knew the man, and had nothing to add to the scene.
After that, Braz suggested we bring the body back with us, which prompted a discussion whether that was a good idea. I had already paid my respects, so I walked away from the conversation, choosing to enter the now blown-open storage room.
I stepped over the dead bodies of a few Goblins, and paused for a moment.
They were all dead. The Dark Crusaders were dead, and so were the members of the Elise. I stared down at the corpses of the Goblins hesitatingly. I thought I would have seen the face of Karna or Ihsan overlaid on top of them, but I did not.
And I felt the same thing about the Dog Beastkin. I did not one think of Shang or the other Beastkin slaves when I fought him. They were just… people.
People who were trying to kill me, just as I was trying to kill them. It was a terrible situation I found myself in, but I could not just allow them to do what they were doing. Or perhaps I could.
However, would I want to live knowing I allowed such atrocities to happen when I could prevent it? And it was not like I had nothing to gain from doing this— I was getting myself a free boat ride straight to the Taw Kingdom. I was in no rush, and I saved my money this way. It was for the best… if I thought lives were worth less than gold.
Shaking my head, I stepped away from the bodies. My biggest concern right now should not be the morality of my actions, but it should be whether or not the Dark Crusaders would somehow know that I did this. I knew not of one, but there probably was a spell that could link this all back to me. And if they did…
I felt my lips drawing into a thin line. Suffice to say, they probably want me as dead as the Church does now.
I glanced around the room, letting those feelings of dread sink to the back of my mind. I searched around behind broken crates and barrels for a minute, before I found what I was looking for.
“Guys,” I called out once they had finished their discussion. “There’s a trapdoor here.”
They came quickly towards me, with Braz carrying the dead Vinnie around his shoulders. “This the entrance to their enuim production lab?” he asked.
“I don’t know. Maybe?” I shrugged.
“Only one way to find out,” Kai said, pulling the door open.
He was the first one to enter, followed by myself and the others. We walked down a short stairway, before finding ourselves in a large room
It was a laboratory; there were beakers, vials, test tubes— all full of liquid— spread throughout the room. It was even more massive and colorful than the Alchemist shop I broke into back in the Free Lands. I had never seen anything like it in my life.
Kai ignored all the vibrant substances, and approached a stack of wooden crates in the corner of the room. He used his rifle to open the lip, revealing hundreds of gray packets tied together by a stringle. He untied it, and spoke to us.
“This is it.”
“So, this is the enuim,” I said, looking down at the blue-white power. It was not like the small dust-like particles that I had expected it to be when I first learned it was a powdered drug. They were large clumps of powder, that didn’t break into smaller parts even when I poked at it. “How do people even use these things?” I asked curiously. “Do you eat them or something?”
“You don’t consume them in this state,” Kai explained. “You mix it with a liquid— any liquid, but preferably water— and you boil it. Then you inhale it.”
“And it was prescribed as a medicine for the Noxeus?”
“Yes,” he said, turning away from the drugs in disgust. “They told them it would cure the body from the inside, starting from the lungs. And people believed it because it muted your pain receptors— it’d make you think you were feeling better. I don’t understand why anyone would bring it over to this continent, let alone our country. It’s just so…”
“Terrible?” I suggested.
He snorted. “That’s one word for it.
Shrugging, I looked back at the boxes of enuim, lining the sides of the room. “Well, that’s not going to be a problem anymore since”— I pointed a finger, and a sphere of flames slowly came into existence— “we’re destroying it all.”
And the Fireball exploded.
It took us almost two hours before we returned to the docks. Lisa was there waiting for us, and ran to us.
“What happened? Did you guys manage to do it?” she asked, showing genuine worry in her voice as she inspected Jack. “You’re hurt! You were—”
“I’m fine,” he said, then gestured behind him. “And we succeeded. Just look.”
The young woman raised an eyebrow. “I don’t see anything.” She narrowed her eyes, looking in the direction we came from.
I piped up from the side. “That’s because it’s dark and cloudy. You can’t see the smoke billowing up in the distance.”
“But shouldn’t there at least be a fire?” She gave me a confused look.
“No,” I said, shaking my head. “We only destroyed the enuim. Nothing else. We want to leave the Elise a message.”
“And the message is clear,” Kai added, stepping onto the boat. “They’re not getting any more allies, and they aren’t going to be ruining peoples’ lives anymore.”
“What does that mean?” Lisa asked, frowning.
“It means exactly that— we’ll be doing a lot more of these raids in the next few weeks.”
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