Chapter 4: The Serpent and the Wolf
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“You think I don’t want to live out the rest of my life in peace? That I don’t want to retire? The reality is that all four of my sons and all three of my daughters want my place. The moment I give up power, I become easy prey to all of them. A father who they no longer need. A past ruler who they can no longer afford to have. Such is the reality of power. It turns sons against fathers. Friend against friend. It is a poison, albeit a sweet one.” - Lord Troy, Imperial Duke of the Holy Phoenix Empire. 


A Serpent Sentinel set up a hologram recorder in the middle of the room before grabbing onto the Wolf Count by the arm and yanking him off the sofa, away from his family, and into a chair. As the man stared at the hologram recorder, he knew what Countess Valentine was trying to do. She wanted to conclude her false accusations with a forced confession.

If this was in the Republic, such a forced confession would never hold. At best, it would be ignored by the court. At worst, it could bite Valentine in the ass. The only problem was that this confession was never meant for the Republic. It was meant for the Imperial nobles and citizens alike, and most of them wouldn’t wonder what the circumstances of this confession were. Those that might wonder could very well find out what the circumstances were...in the worst possible way.

He snapped back to Countess Valentine with fire in his eyes.

“I’m not doing it.”

The Countess sighed before pulling the trigger. Alex jumped as the Arbiter Gauss Handgun the woman was holding screamed. He snapped to the side and was relieved to see both her mother and sister were fine. The bullet flew over young Amelia’s head and buried itself in the well-decorated wall. But that didn't stop him from feeling furious. This vile woman almost shot her sister! He struggled to stand up, almost at the same time as his father. Again, almost at the same time as his father, he was pushed back down into his seat.

“Don’t make this difficult for yourself, Gerard.” The Countess’s voice was soft. She was almost pleading. “Say the words. Give me what I want, and I will make sure this is all over soon.”

“If I say those words, then you will use it as evidence to purge my people.” At this moment, after the initial fury died down a little, Gerard’s mind was oddly calm. “It will back up the false evidence you forged and give you the excuse to execute everyone still loyal to me. Officers. Officials. Soldiers and crew members. It will be handing you the entire Obsidian System and signing the death sentence of countless.”

He turned around and glanced at Amelia with sadness in his eyes. His daughter knew what was happening. She knew she almost died, and she would likely die not much later. Yet, she bit her teeth and refused to cry out. She was a wolf. A young wolf, but a wolf nonetheless, and wolves shouldn’t show weakness to their foes.

“In that case, I’m sorry, Gerard.”

Countess Valentine scanned across the faces of the Wolves and could only see determination. None of them was going to yield to her...but she had expected this. With a sigh, she stood up and left the room.

As the Countess left, one of the Serpent Sentinels marched up to the family of four. He nodded at the other soldiers, who reached forward, grabbed onto the three other members of the Wolf family, and pulled them apart by force. Alex did his best to struggle, but he was still too young, and anger alone wasn’t enough to help him overcome the strength of the much larger guards.

“What are you doing?” Gerard tried to sit up as well, only to get held down.

Finally, one of the Serpent Sentinels knelt down in front of Amelia. He reached into his tactical belt and pulled out a Tormentor Army Knife. Amelia flinched at the sight of the weapon, but there was only so much space she could move.

The Serpent Sentinel grabbed onto her left hand and pulled on one of her fingers. Finally, he turned to Gerard in silent inquiry.

“No...No!” Gerard’s eyes widened as he realized what was going to happen. His cries were joined by that of his wife and Alex. “Don’t do it! She’s just a child! You want to torture someone, do it to me!”

The soldier observed the Count’s prayers coldly before letting out a sadistic smirk. With a single slice, he severed Amelia’s index finger. The girl screamed as blood oozed out of the wound, her silent determination broken by the boundless pain, but that didn't stop the Serpent Sentinel from moving onto another finger.

Alex felt his eyes turning red as blood was spilled. His sister’s blood. Without a sense of self-preservation left, he snapped around and headbutted his captor in the face, only to bloody himself on the alloy helmet of the man. Smirking, the Silver Serpent grabbed onto Alex again and forced him down on his knees. There was nothing he could do but watch the torture unfold.

Amelia was still screaming and crying. Beside her, Jessie was in tears. The Serpent Sentinel turned to Gerard once again, demanding an answer.

When the Count didn't confess, the man severed another finger from the young girl.

Alex let out a desperate cry as he struggled with everything he had. For a second, he hated how powerless he felt. His sister, his own sister, was being mutilated right before his eyes and all he could do was watch and cry. He hated himself. He even hated his father for trusting that damn whore! As Amelia’s screams filled his ears, he turned to his father, hoping that he could do something to save his sister from the torture.

Gerard sat there, his body shaking in silent fury. He was tough. As tough as twenty years of blood and slaughter could make a man. Even so, that didn't stop him from being paralyzed by the atrocities he was forced to witness. Decades of experience couldn’t block out this nightmare.

Honestly, the man wanted to simply give the confession and get this thing over with, but he couldn’t do it. If he gave the confession, he would be 100% labeled as a traitor, and everyone that once followed him would pay the price for his treason with their blood. Plus, without a confession, Countess Valentine would be forced to keep them alive. If he could maintain his silence until those damn reinforcements arrive…

But logic faltered at the endless screams of his own daughter.

The Serpent Sentinel was about to move onto Amelia’s third finger when the door to the dining hall was pushed open. A few guards raised their weapons, only to immediately lower them as they saw their liege lady marching in.

Alex’s eyes widened from fury as he stared at the devil incarnate. What did she want now? More talking? More threats? Perhaps she wanted to play the good guy and lure his father into a confession?

That was when, surprising everyone in the room, Countess Valentine drew her weapon and opened fire.

Alex’s mother, Jessie Wolf, was the first to bite the dust. A bullet buried itself into her forehead, killing her as painless as possible. Amelia came second, her screams forever silenced by the gunshot. Gerard struggled in his seat, only to meet his end with two rounds in the heart.

The Obsidian Wolf died with his eyes open in disbelief. He was under the impression that Valentine needed him, so why would she...his confusion was shared by his capturers, who were so shocked that they raised their voices in inquiry.

“What the...my Lady!” One of the Serpent Sentinels, an officer, called out in disbelief as Gerard’s body collapsed off the chair in front of him. This was not the plan! “My Lady! We haven’t got the confession yet!”

For a second, Amelia Valentine stood there in silence. Instead of answering her subordinate, she found herself staring at the last surviving member of the Wolf family. Alex Wolf. The young man who was always so polite to her now wore a mask of infinite fury. After all, he did see his entire family executed by her. He kept on struggling against the Sentinel that held him down, ignoring how futile the act was. The message in his eyes told the Countess all she needed to know.

Give him the opportunity, and he would pounce on her and tear her heart out for what she did.

Unfortunately, the Countess was going to make sure he would never get the chance.

“I’m sorry.” She whispered quietly before shooting Alex twice in the chest. The Arbiter rounds opened two gaping holes in the young man’s body.

The guard who was holding Alex in place frowned as he dropped the battered body. The Countess’s shots weren’t as accurate with this one as they were for the other three Wolf family members. It was entirely possible Alex wasn’t killed at that instant, but he didn't say anything. If the boy wasn’t dead now, he would be in a few minutes, and it was clear that the Countess was in no mood to be disturbed.

As the entire Wolf family was eliminated, the Countess turned to her honor guards.

“We have enough evidence. The Count’s confession was good but not required. Now, proceed with the plan.”

“But, my Lady...the Duke had his orders…”

“I have already gotten rid of his threat. If he has an issue with how I did it, he can go fuck himself.” The Countess turned to her guard and stared at him with a gaze so cold the guard immediately looked down in obedience. Wise call from him. With that done, the Countess gave one last glance at the corpses in the room before leaving the dining hall.

Minutes later, after pulling out their forces, the Serpent Guards lit the entire mansion aflame. With rapid efficiency, the fire scorched across the compound, reducing rooms, furniture, paintings, and bodies alike to ash.

As the flames started reaching the dining halls and the temperature within the halls became intolerable, a young man suddenly opened his eyes.

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