Evening, after returning from the Sutakame Ship.
Several hours had passed since the small band had returned from the Sutakame ship. The half-elf had avoided the men that had fought alongside her though they had seen glimpses of her as she moved quietly around camp, showering and eating away from the rest of the company. Since her injury during the Battle of 100, Lukina had been staying in Creature's tent at his insistence but as far as the camp knew, that was as far as the arrangement went.
No one knew much about the half-elf knight. She assisted in training the company on the finer points of scouting and sniping but she spoke little of herself or her Lord. It was common for her to leave the camp on her own or to not be seen within the camp until it was her turn for watch, but her recent forced bed rest and injury had made her less accessible.
It was somehow difficult to talk to the Lady Knight alone, especially with the Lord Creature watching over her since her injury. It was a stroke of luck that Dallas spotted the woman slipping from the camp.
Lukina headed towards the river, walking quickly into the tree line. Her footsteps left a faint impression in the soft moss, her new cybernetic weighed more and left a heavier print than was normal for the scout. Despite the recent amputation and installation of a cybernetic left leg, her pace was steady. The certainty of her footsteps in the dimming daylight made it clear that the half-elf had travelled this trail many times before.
The inclination of the earth gradually increased from flat plain to hills. After several minutes of walking upriver from Azalea's encampment, the trail ended at a punch bowl waterfall. The river pooled below with a loud misty trickle beside the gentle roar of the waterfall. The night air was cooling and the Piyapon sky glittered golden as the rings of the world danced with the nebula above. The bioluminescent flora and fauna gave the night time waterfall a teal, otherworldly glow.
She stopped beside the river, her eyes drawn upward past the glow of the waterfall to the view of the golden flecked nebula above. The blue glow enveloped the half-elf as fireflies whorled around her, pulsing softly as the last remnants of summer as the mist rose around her. Her ruby hair fell loosely to the middle of her back, unbound and slightly damp. Moisture beaded against her skin, and dampened the thin white fabric of her camisole, her red skirt and black thigh highs, her exposed shoulders and the scant inches of bare thighs glistened in the light. Only the leather gauntlet on her right forearm, and the gun belt with the BFR on her hip betrayed her occupation.
The Marshal was a fair distance behind. He'd meant to leave for high ground to make a communication call back to his headquarters but found himself with the thought of telling her first. She did save his life, despite the slight ringing in his head from the concussion, that item was clear.
He had followed her out, but had stopped just past the tree line. He was slightly flushed from her actions but spoke out with a voice that concealed that emotion, all his emotion. "Lukina, we need to have a chat."
Lukina turned her head slightly to look at the Marshal over her shoulder. Bright green eyes gleaming with blue in the glow as she turned to face him. "It's just us, Dallas. I'm all ears. I don't bite so you don't need to hide back there." Her voice was inviting and soft despite the distance between them and the sound of the waterfall behind her.
Dallas walked along the water's edge to where he was closer, "Something is about to go down. I want to ask a simple question," He stopped and turned towards her, his eyes carrying the emotion of concealed worry, "Do you know the pain of my job?"
"There are many things in the oaths you took," Lukina watched him and started to recite the oath, “I am a Knight Marshal; A Knight of the highest order of the Law. In becoming a Knight Marshal I swear upon my own life to protect the free peoples of Kowloon from crime and corruption; to uphold the spirit of the law; to hold myself to the highest level of integrity; To set the example. In this, I will not waver - upon my own word as a Knight Marshal. I will hold myself to the highest integrity - My word is my bond. To break my word is to tarnish not only my own name, but my country and its people's as well. I will not lie to, steal from, nor cheat those who are honest and law-abiding. I so swear upon my word as a Knight Marshal."
Her weight shifted for a moment before she closed the distance between them. She was barely an arm's length away. "The pain differs between Marshals. Yours is a young order, you regulate us as we live and die for the country and its people."
"You know I've been an officer of the law for a long time, even before Kowloon existed. I used to be the man that patrolled a dark undercity before I finally moved out to a precinct out in the hills. Everyone in that town knew each other, and when someone died I was usually the one to drive out and make house calls. There is nothing worse than watching the hope and love fall from someone's eyes. There is nothing worse than watching someone you care deeply for turn their back on you for all the wrong reasons."
The Marshal cleared his throat, "What I'm trying to say is, something is going to go down that is going to affect a lot of people. Shit's gonna get shittier and shittier from here on out."
The half-elf was less than a foot away as she looked up at the New Texan. "We're fighting a war," her voice grew softer as she tried to understand what he was saying. "We have to do things that we regret for the betterment of the country. It's never easy when you hold life and death in your hands. What do you wish to hold in yours?"
"Even in death, there has to be some light somewhere." Dallas' eyes looked deep into hers, a faint indication of sorrow and worry rising in the back of them. "What do we gain from killing those we try to protect?"
The sky darkened but the light of the plants and the waterfall grew stronger, casting them and the mist in a richer hue of teal. "What do we gain from denying ourselves? Not everything is so simple. We can't always save everyone. Not every light can be rekindled. You have to find the ones that still have life and kindle them stronger." She met his gaze and held it while lightly placing her hand on his chest. "Not every heart beats as strongly. We might want to save everyone but only some are strong enough to survive the trauma."
He felt something shift inside him. Almost like a shift in his mind that unlocked a side of him he hadn't seen since he watched Francesia shrink from view. He felt an emotion that previously had remained checked underneath the badge of silver and now the badge of gold.
He felt his morality.
He felt a tad of doubt line up in the back of his mind that he knew if left unchecked would consume him. He knew he had to act before he no longer had the will to do so. He was about to make a very tough decision, and he wasn't sure if he could handle it.
Visually, he looked to be thinking over the weight of the world, his mouth moving to speak, a few stammers escaping his lips before he stopped trying to say his words.
Those green eyes were unreadable in the light. The only thing he could see in them was himself. Her hand was warm against his chest. It was getting cooler, he could almost see the heat rising from her body. She took his hand and placed it over her heart and held it there. "There are few truths in this world beyond this. What you can feel, what you can see. Is this life or death? Does it truly matter?" He could feel her strong, steady heartbeat. She watched him, her voice was soft. "What light are you looking to kindle?"
"I... ah.... I..." He was getting flustered again, lost completely to words. He didn't know what he was kindling. He was so focused on the job that he had forgotten his age, his dreams, his desires for something of worth. His spare hand went over hers, its lack of a pulse completely overshadowed by the warmth the synthetic skin gave off. It almost felt real.
Lukina’s eyes never left his. She let the silence between them grow for a few moments more before she spoke again. “What is it that you want? Is it all duty?” A soft breeze tussled her hair and the hem of her skirt against him. The scent of her shampoo was stronger now, it was reminiscent of lilies and spring.
"No..." His eyes carried his emotion before he spoke again and cut the rising silence, "I want to know that someone cares." He blinked and felt his heartrate spike ever so slightly, a slightly longer breath carrying his chest's weight.
He felt... something.
“How long have you walked this path alone?” She asked gently, her eyes full of compassion. She placed her other hand on top of his.
Dallas softly blinked to himself, "I wouldn't call anything I've had recently a relationship. I've walked this path alone for years. The last thing that came close was just a facade that I made to make me feel better but it fell into itself. I am alone, well alone."
Lukina watched him curiously, tilting her head up at him to look more fully at his face. “You’ve had no one? Not a friend? Is this what you want?”
"I don't want to walk alone... not anymore..." He seemed to lean his head forward barely a hair but visibly so. He stopped himself before slowly moving his eyes off to the side. He didn't say anything, gently returning his eyes to hers.
“Then don’t,” she replied with a soft smile. “Or did you take a different oath that bars you from any sort of companionship?”
A smile crossed the Marshal's face, "I don't plan to, though all everyone needs is a little bit of faith in each other." His fingers in the hand holding hers gently coiled around hers to the point where he was effectively holding it. "I may walk a lonesome road now, but all lonesome roads end somewhere."
“Where does yours end?” Lukina asked again, returning the smile. She seemed more at ease with his hand around hers. She leaned slightly against him.
"I don't know, where does it?" He gave her a grin as his hints of pain began to fade, though the worry remained within the clouds of calm.
“That’s your decision to make,” she replied. “There are all sorts of possibilities on Piyapon. It’s why we came here. Everyone is looking for a new beginning, new paths to take. They just have to pick one.”
Dallas moved the elf's hand and his to gently brush her cheek, his eyes attempting to carry on where his words were silent. Maybe it was the end of his lonesome road, something told him that. Something told him that she cared. His voice was soft and low pitched, "Maybe that new path starts here."
Lukina’s eyes widened. She started to say something but the words died on her lips. Her lips pursed together as she struggled to regain her train of thought.
Dallas realized how she had taken what he said, growing another shade of red. He didn't say anything, just blinked.
Lukina’s face blushed pink. “I… I’ve never...”
Dallas blinked twice, a silent response.
They stood in the awkwardness of the moment. She took an unsteady step backward with her left foot and slipped on the damp earth, failing to compensate for the difference in her body weight with the new cybernetic.
Unlike her cybernetic, Dallas' own reacted faster and with trained efficiency. He caught her, but now was in ankle deep water, "Are you okay?" He quietly cleared his throat, "Uh... I can help you with that..."
“I’m... fine. With... what?” She stared up at him, blushing and flustered.
"Shhh," Dallas moved his spare hand from hers to brush her cheek. He gently placed his lips on hers as he grew another shade of red. When he broke away, his eyes met hers.
A hand moved through her hair and gently held the back of her head. After a moment, he pulled his lips from her and breathed audibly. His mind was screaming many things to him, a few flags raising in his mind but all fell silent. He couldn't form any words, simply stating, "Uh..." as his eyes gazed into hers.
The half-elf was trembling, her eyes were full of confusion and want but she pulled back away Dallas. "I'm sorry."
"N-N-No no, It's my fault." Dallas dodged his eyes, extremely embarrassed by the sudden change in his stance, "I meant no disrespect or dishonor or uh... shit."
"I've never been with anyone in that way," Lukina said softly. "I had just meant you could find friendship or something of a future here in Kowloon... you are attractive but I am... otherwise committed... my situation is complicated. This isn't how I want my first time." She more carefully moved back away again.
"No... I wasn't going to do... that... I don't know... I... wanted... to make sure... we were on good terms!" Dallas was backing away step by step. He was a few feet away before he tripped on a rock and stumbled back towards the tree line. "I only meant... shit... I only meant to make sure we were on good terms, that we were comrades!"
Lukina looked at him strangely. "Strange way, but I haven't been on Eden for a long time." she smoothed her skirt down, her face was flushed. "But we'll see what the future holds just... be less aggressive with me. I was taught to shoot first."
"Yeah... uh... but to get back to what I was uh... saying... Something is about to go down. I don't know what I want to do about it and I hope I am making the right call based on the oath I took. I just want you to know, I don't mean to harm anyone."
With that, he took two large steps back and then booked it into the woods.
Three Days Later
"LONG TAIL STANCE!" Creature snapped. The little page snapped into the proper sword stance, he planted forward and the left out to the side, the large two handed wooden sword was held behind her, and low to the side. "What is this stance good for, dumb fuck?"
The Page spoke, "It is a deceptive stance designed to encourage the foe to strike first!" She parroted back loudly.
"What do you do when they strike?"
"Yaaa!" The wooden sword cut up into the air into a wide swing from under to above.
"Fuck yeah. Plow stance!"
She then, fluidly shifted into the plow stance. The hilt of the wooden sword - the sword was more of long thick stick that had been polished down, and the hilt curved- held to her waist line and the tip pointed out.
The pair were half a mile away from Azalea camp, and were training under a cool moist morning. Dew was all over the ground, and the cool, humid air was given extra bite by the thick overcast sky above them. Creature stood with his hands on his hips, his swords in their sheaths and his gun on his hip, and continued training his page in the art of swordsmanship.
There was the sound of hooves hitting dirt, and a fair number of them. They drew near before they stopped, the audible neigh of horses echoing down the small path towards the training area. As a cloud covered the sun, six people, four men and two women, stepped from the trail bearing the same uniform, the same coats, and the same golden badge.
Behind the six was a familiar face, grim in expression. He already had his weapon drawn from its holster, quietly set to laser instead of the .455.
"Y'all better put down any weapons, especially you, asshole."
Creature stepped forward.
The little page relaxed, but still held her stick, and look of worry flashed over her black eyes. The wind blew through them causing her shift to dance a bit, and her dark curly locks to rustle.
Creature looked at Dallas. "What the fuck is this shit?" Creature said tilting his head at them.
The Marshal's voice bellowed out as if he was summoning a demon, "On multiple counts of murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, war crimes, violation of the Kowloonian Charter, and assault of a Marshal, you are now under arrest. It is well advised that you drop your piece and surrender."
Dallas' left hand wasn't visible, but his right hand clutched his revolver.
The page heard all of this and rushed forward in front of Creature while presenting her wooden sword point at them in the new Plow stance she had just learned.
"I bet you are creaming your pants reading that fucking fiction you wrote," Creature replied, his hand going down for his own pistol. Creature drew his pistol. He was fast. Inhumanly fast. It was just suddenly there aimed at Dallas' face.
"Alright. Well, come on. Fucking arrest me," Creature said holding his hands up for the Marshals to see that he had complied by dropping his gun.
He didn't flinch, "We ain't gonna hurt the girl, you know that." Dallas stepped forward two paces, flanked by two other Marshals with trench guns, old ones at that.
The child backed Creature up by standing next to him, holding her stick out, and shifting the men a steely eyed gaze of her own.
"Well, you might fucking have to. I think she has made up her mind," Creature commented.
"Yep.", she said sharply.
"SARAH! She ain't gonna get any pain or else your ass is grass!" Dallas bellowed over his shoulder.
A blonde Marshal, barely looking tough enough to hurt a fly walked between Dallas and the Page. She crouched down to her level and spoke in an almost motherly tone, "Sweetie, we don't want to hurt you or your friend, we want this all to go peacefully."
Creature ignored Dallas' command to the other Marshal. He merely held his ground, and Dallas knew Creature could and would shoot. "What the fuck is it, McClosky? You want to fuck Lukina and don't like the idea of other dudes getting in the way of your dick or something? You have had a hard-fucking cock for me since you first showed up to my camp."
The page held her ground too. "I think he is mad you pushed the Portapot over when he was using it..." She muttered.
Dallas heard one of the Marshals behind him stifle a laugh. "Wait, what? He did what now to you, McClosky?"
Another Marshal whacked the laughing Marshal in the gut, "Shut up, Flanders!"
Dallas maintained his gaze, "No, I am maintaining order in Kowloon. It's my job to make sure you don't go and fuck up the land you're trying to save. You tend to forget there are people that end up on the wrong side with good intentions, do you not? Like the nursery and children, you wasted not a week ago?"
"Three days," Creature corrected. "Technically, I'm an accessory to that one, Lukina was the one who wasted it. Plus, I am fighting a fucking war here. Sorry, it isn't neatly wrapped in a fucking present with a pretty bow that turns out to be a fucking vacuum cleaner, all nice pretty and fucking clean."
"You better watch your tongue, I technically have the right to be Judge, Jury, and Executioner. I have all the clearance I need from up high," Dallas retorted.
The blonde Marshal took out a small injector and looked back to Dallas for a moment.
"Well oh la la, hey McClosky, I really don't like hearing you fucking talk as much as you do. So stop being a fucking princess and come arrest me," Creature taunted.
"Look at me, shit stain, you think your backwards-ass knees, big ass sword, and lack of a conscience mean a single damn thing to anyone?” The Marshal barked.
"Oh go fuck yourself. You don't know me! You don't know what the fuck I can do!" Creature retorted.
While the Gartagen was distracted, the blonde Marshal quietly injected a harmless knockout serum into the page's neck, the girl's right eye seeming to adjust to watching heat and then returning back to normal. She caught the girl in her arms as she fell forward, asleep.
Creature snapped, and shot the woman center mass with his pistol. The round went clean through her and the force sent her flat on her back to the ground. Creature turned to bring his gun up to defend himself.
The Marshals at Dallas' flanks raised their trench guns and fired. Two beanbags smashed in to the Gartagen's arms while Dallas leveled his revolver in his primary hand and fired. His left hand pulled a powered-truncheon from inside his coat.
Three of the others advanced with Dallas, with their own truncheons and Tonfas at the ready.
With a violent sound of electricity and burning air Dallas' voice boomed out again, "DON'T MAKE ME MAKE YOU A FUCKING FLOWERBED!" He stepped forward and closed towards a grapple. His left arm swung low, and arced up between his legs with the power of mechanical prowess.
Creature's pistol flopped out of his hand from the force of the nonlethal impacts. Option A went down, But Creature grabbed that big sword of his and yanked it out of its scabbard. "Do it, mother fucker, bring that weak shit!" Creature responded as he was surrounded from all sides. He took up the window stance, which the hilt of the sword was held over his shoulder, and the point aimed down slightly. He attempted to switch it on, and the sword, rattled, fizzled and popped.
The Marshals around him all leveled their weapons, one man shouldering a rifle that aimed from the exposed skin. The audible hum of the truncheon gave weight to the lead's left hand while his right switched to the rounds. "Last chance, Creature, don't make me bury you."
Valériane was close by, but was too far from Creature and the Page to hear the argument that occurred before the gunfire had begun. As soon as it had, the diminutive Huoshio took up the only weapons that she had brought with her to the training session: two chakrams and an old Taianese pistol.
She sprinted towards the training grounds and unholstered her pistol when she saw the group of Marshals surrounding Creature. However, when her eyes saw Dallas, her mouth dropped open.
"Dallas...what's going on here?!" the Huoshio exclaimed, looking slightly confused, yet determined to resolve the issue. Behind her and a little to the left, the elven knight, wearing her long black cloak mantled with the fur of some beast and well hooded, ducked in. She had been lingering around the camp, of late, and the commotion had drawn her as well.
Creature, was for lack of a better term, like a lightning bolt. Normally two-handed swords were, unwieldly. But with the marvels of science and technology he wielded it like he was swinging a feather. The sword snapped out striking one of the Marshals - Flanders, dead in his face. An explosion of teeth and blood followed the bone shattering crack, and the man spun to the ground. "QUIT THE FUCKING SHIT TALKING, MCCLOSKY AND BACK IT UP!"
The trench gun wielding Marshals unloaded into Creature as a loud bang echoed across the clearing before another followed it. The sound of a violent crescendo of various calibers coated the air in the smell of gunpowder and Flanders. A violent whack of metal on rending flesh cut the gunfire short.
It was chaotic. The shotgun blasts threw him off balance, but Creature fought on. A truncheon hit him, sending over charge of electricity into his body. Creature roared, and sent a force full kick into the assailant's knee. The joint shattered, the bone breaking the skin and the Marshal's jeans were painted red.
Another one hit him with a Tonfa, shocking him in his arm, causing Creature to drop his sword. Creature grabbed the Marshal and shoved forward, delivering a powerful headbutt to her, crushing her nose and sending her end over end across the ground. A tranq needle hit him in the neck. Then another Truncheon. And another. Then they beat him for a few more seconds before finally restraining him.
"Alright. Handcuffed and secured, McClosky. Holy fuck. What the piss was this guy?"
Sedated, Creature drooled and groaned, his hands were behind his back and he was face down. The two uninjured marshals patted him down. They confiscated the small bag of drugs he had on him. A switch blade knife, and his soft pack of menthol Cigarettes. One, celebratory kick was sent down to the back of the Gartman's head.
Valériane watched the exchange, feeling helpless at the conflict unfolding around her. Her eyes looked between Dallas and Creature, and she quickly realized that they were on opposite sides of the conflict.
She was close to both men, making the decision difficult for her to execute, but she was sworn to defend Creature with her life. If anything, she was not a fickle woman.
Valériane sprinted over to Creature and moved between him and the marshals.
"You'll have to get me first," said the little Huoshio in a stern tone.
The Marshal didn't aim any weapon at the Huoshio, except his eyes. "He's killed children, Val, children and their mothers. They were helpless. I can't live knowing that I am in the same camp as someone who would willingly destroy the innocent for his own gains."
The blonde Marshal gave a wet cough as she handed the Gartagen's page off to another Marshal before passing out on the ground from blood loss and quietly sobbing.
"I'm sworn to Sir Creature. I will not abandon my oath. You've been wonderful, Dallas, but I have made my decision. What will it be, Dallas?" She said, looking towards Dallas.
The Marshal gave an emotionless blink, a small pressure being forced on her abdomen followed by a quiet click. "I will not abandon my oath either. Hell hath no fury like the Mikado scorned."
The two Marshals picked up Creature by his elbows and promptly shackled his feet. They then called one of their horses over and loaded him on to the back of the beast. The second Marshall hurriedly began confiscating Creature's gun, his sword, and even the page's stick.
Flanders soon rose and wiped his face. Still groggy from his nap, he sat up and moved over to the other Marshal who was clutching his shattered knee.
The one with the shattered nose, the guard who loaded Creature up, kicked his horse and trotted off as swiftly as possible, as per Dallas' initial instructions.
Valériane raised her gun and pointed it towards Dallas, a tear falling from her cheek as she did.
"I said. What will it be, Dallas?" Her question was shaky and strained.
His truncheon raised to the side of her pistol, the electricity arcing over from metal to metal. "He fought the law, and the law won." The truncheon revved down to a lighter level of shock before whacking against her shooting arm. The pistol fell to the ground as Valériane felt a shock of electricity course through her nerves, forcing her to the ground as she screamed out in pain.
"If... you're the law... then... then where's his damn trial?!" She screamed out, as she held her arm to the side.
"In one week, to be held by our tribunal." His voice held no emotion, "I am not holding it here, too high of a risk, Skylark." The last word carried a hint of emotion, but one meant to calm a firestorm rather than beg forgiveness or understanding.
"You won't get any sympathy from me," Valériane spat, coughing up blood as she spoke. "None."
"I ain't askin' for any, I just do my job." The Marshal pulled his gun out of her stomach and holstered it, "He ain't gonna die, he'll just go to our little hotel."
The bars closed on Creature's cell. They were then magnetically sealed. Creature was in his boots, pants and shirt. His wounds had mostly healed after he was processed in. The Marshals had him in a cell block on a prison ship But isolated from the other inmates. "Alright asshole. Just sit tight and wait for your trial."
Creature looked around. "Fuck you, you little bitch. Come behind these bars and say that shit and see what happens." He said planting the heel of his palm into the bulkhead of his cell causing the ship to vibrate.
The marshals, four of them looked at each other and their eagerness for prisoner abuse dissipated. "Yea mother fuckers." Creature rumbled smiling under his head wrappings and flexing out a hooked talon at them that they let him keep after seeing and telling him how hideous he was. "One of you is going to have to let me out, and when you do you will fuck up. and I will bend each one of you over and fuck your asses into dust. You think this place belongs to you? THIS IS MY HOUSE NOW!" He then stomped the deck, making the ship vibrate again. "MY HOUSE MOTHER FUCCCCCKERS!!!!!"