It was a lapse in his judgement, Robert admitted it bitterly. He wasn’t one for perfection but he hated it if his oversight brought about a relatively catastrophic circumstances.
Which was precisely his current state of affairs.
He had assumed this place was safe. He had become complacent, he admitted bitterly, once again. He did not expect a Dragon Knight of all knights to take a step into the lowest district of Midas Valley. Even a common soldier was too proud to dirty their boots for a hopeless district such as Ragged Bottom.
Although, it served as a proof that Dragon Knights were different from the other Paladins. They were willing to tread into a lawless den of filth and despair in the name of their God and duty.
He gulped. “On what charge?” Robert asked.
“On the suspicion of causing disorder to the city and committing a violation to the laws,” the Dragon Knight answered.
Robert muttered a sigh of relief. At least they were still in the null of knowing the truth of the ghost they were chasing.
“Any resistance to the arrest shall be met in kind,” she warned. “Drop your weapons and the Storage Ring around your finger.”
“She’s good,” Robert praised in his heart. As much as his manhood implored, this was no time for fraternization. “This is the slums, Dame. Crime is the least of anyone’s worries in here. Bad things happen all the time and nobody cares.”
“Good,” she said, “which means I don’t have to be lenient should you resist.”
“Ah…” Robert let out. Every inch of his body was telling him to run but his mind told his body to keep still and stayed his eyes on the Dragon Knight before him.
The Dame eyed the weapon in Robert’s hand, which he did not let go. “May I take that as your answer?”
Robert brandished the sword at her. “Yes.”
“Very well,” she said and unclasped the cloak.
A wave of force brushed past Robert and her presence became more apparent and overwhelming than before.
“So, the cloak is an inhibition tool. Neat.”
The wind blew and carried the cloak away from her body but it vanish into thin air when she touched it. Without her cloak, Robert could see that she wore a thin steel plate of chest armor, a pair wrist guard, and a pair of knee guards. That was all the steel armor she had on her body. The rest were either of leather or some strong fabric.
Robert instantly understood she was an agility-based fighter and judging by her Aura from before, she definitely knew a few spells. And there was also the account for her Specialization Magic, should she have any.
A sword manifested into the Dame’s hand. Although sheathed, the curve of the blade was apparent and the guard was circular as oppose to the usual cross.
Instead of drawing the sword from its sheath, the Dame cast the sheath off from the sword.
Robert raised an eyebrow. “Well, that’s one way to do it.”
“I will be lying if I said I’m not going to enjoy this,” the Dame said and pointed a finger.
If it wasn’t for his hyper-cognition, he would never be able to know the Dame was preparing a spell. Her casting of spell was fast, Robert observed.
A bolt of Magic shot out from the tip of her finger but it wasn’t aimed at Robert. The Magic bolt hit the ground just before it even entered the reach of his sword. The sheer destruction of such a small attack raised a large cloud of dust and pebbles.
Although his vision was impair by the smoke, he knew what would happen next. This was a staple trick in the combat, after all.
The Dame dashed through the smoke and Robert swung his sword to meet her blow. Sparks flew and a sharp sound resounded into the air of the night. A bell rung in the distance, signifying the arrival of night. It wasn’t something that could be heard from where Robert stood but his hyper-cognition picked it up.
She flipped over him, giving a few blind hits, before landing firmly on the ground. She moved low bur Robert lower his stance in response. He blocked two strikes and deflected a thrust, all aimed at towards his legs.
The Dragon Knight spun as she brought her sword around and round again. Robert met each of her blows but his muscles ache at every successful defend and his grip was becoming numb. He learned that biting his lips to sharpen his focus was a trick suitable for such condition but he felt pain differently than everyone else. So that trick he learned was redundant.
The Dame rushed again. Robert brought his sword up to parry her slash. She swept but Robert halted the swing with a firm guard.
She withdrew a step and retracted her sword.
Contrary to her still frame, her Magic burst forth from her body. She thrust her whole body and her sword.
“Fu—” Before Robert could finish his curse, the thrust sent him flying back. It he hadn’t block the attack, he would had a hole in his chest. His feet slid to a stop but the Dame was already moving in close.
Robert anticipated his sword breaking with that strike but it didn’t. She had held back.
“You knew I was going to block that.” Robert glowered with his eyes narrow. “Sly witch. You are really—”
She moved again without waiting for Robert to finish his monologues. This time, the Dame wound up her body before swinging.
Robert infused his guard with Magic at the shout of battle instinct.
However, it proved to be a hopeless gesture. The curve blade completely shattered the blade of his sword into pieces.
Robert fired a bolt of Magic in a hurry but the Dragon Knight flipped her whole body to the side. She kicked the ground as soon as she regained her bearing, flinging herself at Robert.
Robert did a flip of his own, dodging the slash that avoided his vital points.
“She’s not trying to kill me, I see.”
When his feet found solid ground, he raised a leg at the charging Dame. She stopped just before his leg could reach but Robert shot a Magic bolt through the sole of his boots.
The Dame’s gleaming violet eyes showed her surprise.
She evaded the spell at a hair’s breadth but her feet continued carrying her forward without faltering.
Her sword caught the fabric of his garbs as Robert twisted his torso away from the blade that threatened to claim his right arm.
Robert drew out a spear and drove the pointed at the Dame who was too close to give her sword another swing.
“Oh,” Robert uttered in hopelessness which he did not show on his face. His cynicism stemmed from his spear breaking into splinters against the Dame’s bare and unarmored face. It was no Specialization Magic. It was only the Dame focusing her Magic at the single part of her face where she knew Robert would struck.
This was the real difference between a Novice and an Elite. Robert fared better with Baxton because he had Limbo as a huge advantage but on impartial grounds, Robert was fuck, so to say. In the aspects of techniques, Robert was evenly match with the Dragon Knight but her Magic level stood higher than his. She was stronger than the Raksa he faced.
The Dragon Knight stopped her attacks and stared at his futile resistance.
“Well, this is very unnerving,” said Robert as he inspected his broken spear.
“This is pathetic, that’s what this is.” The Dame lowered her sword. “You would have a chance for pleading if you have submitted. But a shame, you chose this path.”
“Trust me, I would surrender if I could.”
“I do not know of your reason for your defiance and I do not care. I’m only bound by my duty to apprehend you and crippling you if you resist.”
“You said you enjoy it.”
“I’m not prohibited from enjoying what I do just like I’m not prohibited on breaking every single bone in your body as long as I do not kill you.”
“Fair enough.” Robert threw the broken spear aside and pulled out a battle hammer. He didn’t think he would come to use it in this manner but it was what it is. He charged his new weapon with Magic.
“I see my words had once again fail to dissuade you. So be it, then.” She began to direct the flow of her Aura onto her sword.
“Word of advice, never let your guard down,” Robert said as he raised the battle hammer into the air.
“Big talk from the one who left himself wide opened to his opponent.” The Dame flourished her sword, leaving a trail of blue glow.
“And another advice, appearance can be deceiving.” Robert smirked.
Seeing his gloat, the Dame frowned. She knew something was off but she didn’t know what.
When she did, it was too late.
She saw his posture. She thought he was going to charge at her with a hammer but his stance spelled impossible for such feat. It would be another story for a high Elite or a Master but he was neither.
She sensed the plummeting pace of Robert’s Magic Pool as he poured Magic into his battle hammer. Confounded until the last moment, she feasted her eyes at her realization.
The hammer wasn’t meant for her.
The ground beneath her feet cratered as she kicked it off and broke into a dart.
Robert swung the hammer, not at the Dragon Knight but at the ground.
Before her blade could even reach his breath, the crack and devastation quickly spread through the whole roof. The undulating uneven grounds that signified the collapse of the building caused her strike to only grazed by his temple.
The Dragon Knight cursed under her breath while Robert retained his grin at the distressed damsel. It wasn’t long before their feet were met with the hollow air as the ground completely gave out.
Soon, the whole roof succumbed to its age. Piece by piece of the debris crashed through floors after floors. The base of the building eventually yielded to the call of destruction. And so, that single swing of a battle hammer had essentially brought the whole building to the ground.
Robert ran without looking back.
His bated breaths made clear and visible to the cold air lingering around the streets.
He whipped his broken leg into shape and dragged his own apologetic arse through the empty street of the slums. There were a few waning and ebbing individuals scattered through the streets but their lack of reaction towards the whole commotion made Robert’s mind to spontaneously deign them as just another pebble by the roadside.
His plan worked. As far as he could tell.
He cast Mystic Scales on his whole body to brave the fall through the collapsing building. He got off with only a few scratches and intense pain but no bones were broken. To his amazement, his masked had saved him from a few pummels of the falling stones and bricks. Although, he was now donning a new mask. It was pity, he liked the previous mask.
His survival had been at the expense of his Magic Pool which he was left with only a quarter of the full amount. The expense was more than he predicted as his Mystic Scale armor was thoroughly destroyed once and he was force to recast another. With his remaining Magic, he was in no condition to fight against an Elite.
He did not know if the Dragon Knight was incapacitate but he knew for sure she was still alive. He still felt her presence. He would love to finish the Dame off but she was bury under a pile of debris.
Turning into a corner, the bridge came into sight.
His pants quickened at the view that gave him hope.
But he calmed his breaths.
As he let off a sigh of respite, he rolled to the side as the beckon of his instincts. A projectile of Aura came flying at his former position, carving three feet into the ground. Aura Blade, the public had taken upon themselves to dub the skill as such.
Turning his gaze to the thrower, Robert found the Dragon Knight posing with an unyielding stance at the turn of the alley. She was almost unscathed with any wounds. The most profound injury she had was a scratch on her left cheek.
The Dragon Knight seemingly parted her lips to speak a few words but Robert didn’t stay to hear whatever torn-filled words she would spout out.
Another Aura Blade flew over Robert’s head as he ducked low. He heard a few curses followed after the attack but he chalked it all up to his imagination.
As he reduced his distance with the bridge, he had a spine-shivering premonition. This time, he rolled to the front, dodging a slice that took the two buildings at both of his side as collateral.
He turned to look and found the Dragon Knight had somehow closed all the distance they had between each other.
“Teleport?” Robert mused. “Or something close?”
As he pondered, he felt the premonition again, a slight unease but the results were every bit fatal. The Dragon Knight once again immediately closed the little gap between them.
It seemed like a teleport but something told Robert otherwise but now wasn’t the time for any guess work.
Robert dodged a slice, evaded a few thrust, and he flipped back from the smash of the thin sword that caved in the ground.
When he flipped, he created some distance between them but when the Dame stared at him, the premonition struck him again. At a blink, she was right in front of him.
“I see,” Robert muttered.
The Dame answered his mutters with another flurry of attacks that threatened to kill him.
She was pique, to say the least. Her attacks before had only aimed to take his limbs or simply cripple him. Although now, each swings of her sword was swinging to kill.
Robert took out weapons after weapons as each broke at the guarding and parrying against her storm of attacks.
At the umpteenth clash of their weapons, the Dame simply grabbed on to Robert’s sword with her gloved hand. Pouring Magic into her grip, she crushed the blade in her palm.
Before Robert could recover his surprise at her feat, she sent a straight kick into his torso, no holds barred. The echoes of his bones breaking resounded perfectly well within the narrow confines of this alley.
Robert went sprawling through the dirty and desolated street which reeked with death and despair. Quite a mirror to his current predicament, Robert thought. Even the shadows seemed to twirl and laugh at his plight.
Clutching at his ribs, Robert lifted himself up with a grimace and a few groans.
“For bringing a whole building down on me, I’m going to make sure I enjoy every little wound I inflicted or I will be inflicting on you.”
Robert thought about the girls and women he came across. Their gentleness were only on the surface.
The tamest one would be Iora but even she had a few thorns and a steel spine. Valena could be considered tame but he knew of the darkness that lurked in her shadows and mind. Although he had no prejudice towards women or girls, he wished to meet a tame girl at least once during his stay in the city. Lynn was tame but that was only until they reached the bed.
“Are you tired?” the Dragon Knight asked.
“Yes,” Robert answered honestly. “Don’t go looking for trouble, I was told. But here I am. I guess I just couldn’t resist.”
“I pitied the one who wasted their breath on you.”
Robert laughed at himself but it even hurt to laugh with his broken ribs. “Any chance you can just turn a blind eye to all this and let me go?”
“I’ll let you go.”
Robert raised an eyebrow. “Really?”
“Into court. Or my blade.”
“Ah, figures.” Robert sighed again. “Is it too late to submit now?”
“It’s never too late to submit before God.” The Dragon Knight allowed herself a faint smirk. “And it’ll be my privilege and honor, and also my task to send you to him.”
“And there’s the catch…”
“Not yet.” Robert straightened himself. “Do you have days off on weekends?” he asked.
“I choose my own days.”
“Well then, do you like mead? As in the honey drink, not poultry.”
“I don’t drink.”
Robert pondered for a while. “Small and adorable animals?”
“I don’t dislike them.”
“I do enjoy the songs of the Suryreon Faith.”
“Ah, the twin gods of songs, arts, and crafts. Interesting taste. So, how about it? A stroll with me, around the garden temple of the Suryeon Faith on one of your days off?”
“What are you playing at?”
“The sharing of a warm bed at the end of the night, or day.”
The Dragon Knight grimaced. “I suppose I did kicked you quite hard.”
“You broke my ribs.”
“I was trying to kill you.”
“Point made.” Robert took out a simple sword. “I guess I got rejected.”
“Soon, you’ll be nothing but a reject.” The aura clad on her sword blazed at her will.
“Someone must have hurt her real good in the past,” Robert gathered. “Can I at least have your name?”
“What an adorable name,” Robert blurted out his thoughts.
Creasing her brows, Qyoni glared at Robert.
And there was it again, the foreboding feeling, Robert felt it. He braced for her attack but his expectations were subverted. Qyoni vanished but she didn’t reappear right in front of him.
“Fuck!” Robert shouted as he tumble forward from a silver streak that reaped a few strands of his hair.
“I’m just very sensitive.”
“Good, I can make it hurt more, then.”
Imbued with Magic to its fullest and pressed with the largest amount of Aura the curve blade could withstand, Qyoni thrust her sword that was warping the air and space around the blade.
“This is going to be so stupid if it fails.”
Robert took a deep breath before throwing his own face straight at the plunging sword.
He didn’t dare to risk it before but through that little conversation, he was able to gauge her character.
When Robert saw the widened eyes of Qyoni, he knew he had won.
Qyoni hesitated. She moved her hand. Instead of impaling Robert’s head, her sword tore through his right side of his face at her hesitation. Her sword missed but her Aura didn’t. His mask was shattered by the warping aura the blade as it also ripped off his right cheek and eye.
Flesh flew and blood sprayed.
The pain flowed through his body at the command of his panicking mind but his heart remained calm at the grave injury.
Robert grabbed hold of Qyoni’s thrust out arm. He pulled out a dagger from his Storage ring with his other hand. It was the dagger which was lace with Beast Fury Pellet powder.
Pouring almost all of his Magic into the small dagger, he drew a wide arc with it. It caught her just below her armpit but Robert wasn’t finish.
“Now!” he shouted.
The shadows of the streets rippled. Dozens of barbed tendrils lashed out.
Qyoni reacted but the poison slowed her movements. She unleashed a storm of Magic bolts blindly but her lack of precision destroyed all but the most crucial lashes of shadows.
Blood painted the streets as it gushed out from Qyoni’s right arm, which was now absent from her right shoulder.
Robert snatched the curve sword right off the air and from the severed arm of the Dame. Without any hesitation, he drove it through the Dragon’s Knight chest.
Qyoni bellowed in rage and agony. Her left hand went for Robert but the shadows pulled Robert away and flung the Dragon Knight through the window of a decrepit building.
Robert groaned into a scream as the shadows did not soften its pull.
“You know what you have just done right?” Robert managed to ask in between his bated breaths.
“Flung a Dragon bitch into a building and saved a helpless dog, did I miss anything?” the shadows answered.
“Good. Now, can I have your gratitude?”
“Where is she?”
“Somewhere close by. Safe.”
Robert sighed. “Alright then, lets get going.”
“What’s the rush?”
Robert scoffed. “The fear for my life.”
Before Seven could retort, the building exploded into splinters as a dark blue Aura burst forth.
“Was that the only poison you have?”
“At the moment, yes.”
Seven threw her face into her palm, figuratively.
With the help of the shadows, Robert dashed off from the collapsing of buildings which consumed more and more collateral.
That night, hundreds of lives were lost.