On a tall throne, there sat a man wearing a golden suit of armour. He looked to be in his early-30s by appearance with his thick blonde hair and faded blue eyes, exuding a powerful spirit. William Quintin Marlboro. People of this world referred to him as the Emperor of the Human Empire.
He received a report that a seemingly insignificant man sought an audience with him who was the leader of the most powerful nation in the Other World. The Emperor wasn’t pleased with it, but he did feel curious. He commanded the man be brought to his throne.
A middle-aged man with a naive look about him was brought 100 paces before the throne and made to kneel. The Royal guards received some item from the man and presented it cordially to the Emperor. The item was wrapped in a silk cloth.
When he unraveled the cloth, he found that it contained a single sword made of ivory.
A low rumble escaped from the Emperor’s mouth. The scene 25 years ago, when he completed the Summoning Palace and entered the Golden City, appeared before his eyes.
“Allow him within 50 paces.”
The middle-aged man hurriedly stepped forward and bowed down before the line marked bright red. The Emperor finally asked his question.
“Who gave you the sword?”
The middle-aged man readily answered his question.
“The E-Enemy of the world, your Majesty The Emperor.”
The middle-aged man spoke his account of the events without reservation. A faint smile formed on William’s lips.
‘You’ve finally shown yourself. Sungchul.’
He rose from his throne and looked at his surroundings.
“Which of our military unit is closest to the Golden City?”
An armored man answered from a distance with a bow.
“It is the 2nd Armada lead by our retainer Dimitri Medioff.”
“Mmm, the 2nd Armada.”
The Emperor stroked his beard as he fell into thought, then gestured with his arm before making his command.
“Send the 2nd Armada to the Golden City. Their objective is the Demolisher, Sungchul Kim. Eliminate him regardless of casualties.”
When the Emperor’s words were spoken, the military commanders quickly began to move. Magicians wearing white uniforms used the stone of telepathy to make communications, and the Flying Dragon Platoon rose their wyverns into formation towards the north. As the entire Empire stirred awake, the Emperor gazed towards the distant north with his faded blue eyes in deep thought.
‘It’s been eight years already.’
Eight years ago. The most influential existences within the continent were gathered to halt the upcoming Calamity. They were named the 13 Champions of the Continent. Currently, the title exists only as a type of formality, but in the past, it used to be a gathering of all the denizens of the Other World who were believed to be the only ones capable of saving the world from the calamity. Unexpectedly, they betrayed that grand expectation in a spectacular way. Only a single voice shouted in rebellion against them, but no one was listening. That man soon took on the moniker of the Enemy of the World.
“Sungchul… why have you returned?”
A question rose in the Emperor’s eyes.
Within a dark basement, Altugius was tied in the centre like a piece of meat ready to be butchered.
A whip with sharp hooks tore away the flesh of his back.
Altugius felt his sight turn yellow as he let out a painful scream, but the torturer had no such mercy. They proceeded to flog him every 10 seconds without delay. Altugius’ back looked pitifully ragged, caked with dried blood and his consciousness was hanging by a thread. The Inquisitor of Heresy, Maxima, appeared as he was drawing his final few breaths.
“Bestow the grace of the God of Order upon this man.”
The servants wearing crow masks used restoration magic on Altugius’ body. The wounds on his split back became sealed, the pain receded, and the light behind his eyes returned. As some of his consciousness returned to him, he recognised the man standing before him and let out a shout.
“How… How could you do this to me…?!”
The Inquisitor of Heresy held up a hand, and then the torturer struck Altugius’ abdomen with the hard shaft of the whip. It felt as though it would pierce his gut.
Altugius spat out a glob of dark blood. The aggravating noise of clanging metal chains echoed in the small room. When some semblance of silence returned again, the Inquisitor of Heresy spoke softly.
“Xero Altugius. You have bravely fought for the revival of Airfruit until now.”
“T-then why do this to me…?!”
Altugius gathered a series of shallow breaths to speak. The Inquisitor raised his hand in response, making the people within the torture room rush out like the tide. When they were left alone, the Inquisitor put his hands behind his back and began to circle Altugius slowly.
“The situation has become severely worse, Altugius. Did you know that the Enemy of the World has been spotted here?”
“The E-Enemy of the W-world…?!”
“Whenever the Enemy of the World appears, the most powerful within the continent will be advised to send their forces. It means that the Crusaders of the New World will be formed. I have an obligation to finish things here before those people arrive. In other words, there is now a need to pick up the pace.”
“What does that have to do with me? Why do I have to be in this state?”
Altugius shook his chained arms. On the other end, the Inquisitor didn’t show even the smallest of movements; like an object in a painting. A small voice muttering beneath his mask rang out.
“It is quite unfortunate, but I have decided to put you up for execution. I have concluded that it is the only way to clean up the various problems plaguing Airfruit.”
“How is that the only solution?”
Maxima replied Altugius’ question with an odd laughter.
It was a laughter that sounded like the final gasping breath of a patient dying from a virulent disease. Altugius opened his eyes wide and looked towards the Inquisitor. Finally, he spoke.
“Soon the teaching staff under Robert Danton shall all be killed by hands of the Assassin’s Guild. That will leave you as the final pillar upholding Airfruit. What will happen then when I pluck out that final pillar?”
It was then when Altugius finally grasped the true intentions of the Inquisitor.
“You mean to get rid of Airfruit?”
The Inquisitor nodded.
“20 years ago, I was found to be mediocre by Airfruit and left the school of my own volition. I spent many sleepless nights, forced to watch a bastard son of a mistress take my rightful place and wield the powers of my birthright.”
“For such a petty reason…?!”
The Inquisitor’s body squirmed in an odd way at Altugius’ rebuke. He turned away from Altugius with strange movements akin to a wind-up doll, then slowly took off his crow mask. Altugius let out a brief scream at the sight. Beneath the mask, there was a mummified face of a corpse.
He was not dead. Hot blood flowed within his veins pumped by a still beating heart. It was intense tenacity through a nightmarish hell that turned his face into what it was. The Inquisitor put on his mask again after revealing his true face, then spoke poetically.
“My motivation may seem petty to you, but to me, it might be something important enough to stake my destiny on. Conversely, your haughty motivation might look as petty to me.”
The Inquisitor clapped, signalling the torturers and guards to enter the torture room once again. He moved past them and spoke in a low voice.
“The execution will proceed tomorrow at noon.”
Altugius did not speak again. He thought of Sarasa, who would be waiting for him alone.
‘No… I can’t die like this!’
However, the chains that bound him were all too solid. The torturers held their whips.
A flashing blade cut through the throat of a magician in the cover of darkness. The magician took a mortal wound before he could even open his eyes and scream. D’vici put a pillow on the face of the wounded mage to confirm his kill. The magician gripped the hand that held down the pillow and thrashed about wildly before it lost its strength and slid away.
This was the 5th one. D’vici had managed to wipe out the teaching staff of the school of pyromancy in a single day. A similar series of events would be happening over in the next room. His wife from the Grimada family, Illia Almeria, released venomous scorpions to kill the head disciples of the school of Pyromancy. Dozens of people died in their sleep; completely clueless to the cause.
The couple who had finished their silent slaughter met up at the entrance to the school of Pyromancy. Two headless corpses were growing cold at the entrance. D’vici looked toward the dark sky and spoke.
“Yes. All done. Not a single one left.”
Illia pushed back a scorpion trying to escape her sleeve and made a sinister smile. D’vici wiped off a bloodied sword and began to think.
‘Just the school of Cryomancy is left. Pict and Myra. I hope they’re doing well.’
D’vici thought this as he looked over to his wife and spoke softly.
“Anyways, I’m not sure if Myra’s side is going well.”
“Should I go and find out?”
At Illia’s question, D’vici nodded. He was a traditional Assassin with a serious and cautious personality. At the very least, he liked to avoid any risks and succeeded his tasks without any losses, but it was unexpectedly rated abysmally by his peers, and so his family was ranked the lowest among the Assassin families. Despite this, he never regretted his decisions about his methods. Illia, who knew this about her husband, pulled out a small bottle and opened it. There was a blue-winged moth inside that crawled out and wiggled in the night sky, before flying off somewhere.
The moth was called the Lovebird Moth, and it was one of the few bugs that Illia had with no venomous properties. However, it had the unique ability to seek out its mate. The male of the Lovebird moth is known to seek out its consort across any distance. The Lovebird moth released by Illia expectedly flew off rapidly in search of a companion. Finally, it found its mate inside a dark warehouse. Its mate was unfortunately squashed into an unrecognisable shape. The moth raised itself and began to fly back out into the night sky.
A figure in the darkness watched the direction in which the moth flew off to. It was Sungchul. Behind him were two corpses hanging side by side. These were the corpses of Myra and Pict.
Sungchul, who looked to be slowing down, left behind the two corpses and made a beeline towards the direction of the moth. The Lovebird moth split the night sky as it made its way to its owner, then landed on her hand. Illia’s face froze.
“Honey. There is a problem.”
D’vici was not shaken.
“Yes. It lost its mate.”
D’vici let out a shallow sigh and disappeared into the darkness.
“Let’s fall back.”
His body slowly turned into fog and melted into the night. Illia melded into that fog to hide herself. However, Illia soon discovered hostility in the air lurking nearby. She had discovered hostile rumblings in her webs cast about in the surroundings. She spoke quietly.
“Honey. It’s an enemy.”
“Is it him?”
D’vici instantly calculated the amount of power he possessed along with any other advantages that he might have.
‘Enemy of the World. His strength is estimated at 600. Dexterity and vitality are known to be about 500. His combat strategy is just one: oppressively crush with sheer stats. It is the most simple but effective strategy.’
After a quick deliberation, he knew that he currently had no chance of winning. He might be able to delay and escape if his strongest son Kaz was here, but at this rate, he would die a pointless death.
D’vici hid his expression. Illia caught onto his intent and nodded before looking at her husband with tearful eyes.
“I’ll buy us some time. I should be able to hold his heels for at least 3 minutes.”
“At the very least, you must escape to find Kaz and leave this place. Tell the client that the bastard is here.”
Illia kissed his cheeks a final time before disappearing into the night. This was the last farewell between the Assassin lovers.
D’vici, who was now alone, regained his original expression and waited for his oppressive enemy to arrive. Soon, a man in worn out clothing waded out of the darkness.
‘He looks different. I had heard he was a giant over 2 meters tall.’
The man who appeared in the darkness spoke.
“Are you the head of the Assassins?”
“That’s right. I am D’vici Almeira, the 32nd Head of the Almeira family.”
D’vici replied honourably, reaffirming his plans once again.
‘Three minutes. I have to hold firm with the belief that this is my final stand.’
However, before even 3 seconds had passed, D’vici knew that he was outmatched by a monster much stronger than he had ever realized. He died instantly as his skull shattered with a single blow to the head.
Sungchul watched the figure of the woman fleeing in the distance after his kill, but he didn’t pursue right away. He patiently stalked his prey until it guided him to its nest, but the prey appeared to have caught onto his plans. She led him to an odd location then turned around.
“Kill me too. Enemy of the World.”
Illia’s eyes swirling with tears and vengeance glared at him as she let loose all of her venomous insects in her possession. There were so many that it looked as though a black smoke was spewing from her sleeves.
Sungchul pulled out his beloved Fal Garaz. Illia’s expression froze.
“You might be able to kill us tonight, but our family will live on!”
Sungchul swung Fal Garaz. Illia’s form was swept away with her venomous insects. Sungchul watched the mixture of human and insect viscera dripping around his feet with indifference then stared off into the night sky.
‘Was she talking about that guy from before?’
He already knew the face of the last surviving member of their clan, as well as the client who had hired them. That was enough. That day the entirety of the Almeira family that had spread fear through the continent had been killed except the eldest son.
In that same moment, those wearing crow masks were raising a pyre at the entrance of Airfruit Academy.