Following the Cessation of the Avenger
At the same time as the Infantry Charge and the Calvary Charge
The Black king loomed on the hill overlooking the battle. His troops had carried off Valériane's body, and now from the sight the Azalea soldiers and his own were locked in battle. His gripped his spear watching the combat unfold. Periodically, runners came to him asking for instructions. His orders were simple. "Bring my children. Keep pressing. Call in the cavalry to round off the enemy's rifles."
The ebon armored Black king leered on, smiling. Though deep down a part of him lamented this. He wanted to face the red terror. A victory here was no victory if he did not take on Creature himself. But his men were doing excellently, slaying Creature's squire would have the outcome he desired. That would most certainly bring Creature to him.
One of his runners paused in his work to look up at an angle, and though she - one of his concubines - tried to roll out of the way, there was nothing she could do before what seemed like a meteor struck her dead and cratered the ground around her from the impact. Dirt and red gore splattered outwards in a radius.
Then, from the dust and the Kowloonian wreckage, the black armored knight rose and stepped out of the gore, a strangely crafted, long-handled axe in the one hand, and a broad, thick shield attached to the other. The edges of the powered armor glowed gently from the strike, like runes or the echoes of some far-off legend.
Two other meteors hit at around the same time. They both struck people instead of ground, though neither managed to walk away quite as nonplussed as the first.
The Black king watched on. His chest heaving as the carnage near him resulted in some gore splattering across his ebon slated armor. The tall Vekimen turned to face this new comer. He looked on taking in the view of his new challenger. The Black Knight would see a taller than expected Vekimen standing clad in finely etched heavy plate armor from head to foot. His armor had intricate carved round waves all over its dark skin. In his hand was a similarly black tipped glaive.
"So. The fabled Black Knight. You have foiled my men, what is it? Four times now? Much respect to you."
The Black Knight came on, though she walked. Behind her, the two accompanying were recovering from what seemed to have been a leap from somewhere nearby. The one was garbed in similar armor, though it bore a white cloak and the green-and-white robe of a Ceremonial Guard. It wore white armor with gold trim, though instead of a shield and weapon, it bore a broad shoulder plate with the ivory stag of Kowloon upon it, and cradled in its arms was a Tianshi's rifle.
The other one was Creature du Rochon.
The Black Knight said, her voice direct, "And now a fifth. How viciously do they fight, now that you have the body of their hero?"
"I am unsure. Their forces moved to take the ground. I suppose I will find out who has her body when the battle is concluded. I believe so. Ah. There he is." The Black king said shifting his small yellow eyes to the Gartagen. Creature stood behind Bhelith and advanced. "I suppose you have brought him here to challenge me?"
Creature, did not slow his advance and his sword was out, it flickered to life, the teal blue solid-state laser edge buzzing and searing the air. The blade was pushed an Inch from the Black King's face. "Fuck no. I came because I wanted to see what you looked like. That way if you miracle your ass away from this shit, I can find you on the battlefield. I recommend you don't fucking forget what I look like, because it will be the last thing you fucking see."
The Black King stood resolute. His hand gripping the shaft of his Glaive. "Four on one...." He cooed, with his soft tenor voice.
"That would not be very fair to you." The black knight observed, continuing, "War is rarely so."
She stopped around ten paces away, far enough they could not reach the other with the weapons they were holding, though a step or two in either direction would be telling. And yet, it was near enough that they could speak without augmentation.
The Black Knight indicated the unfolding battle. "We will wait until you have seen your force defeated. Then, you shall have a choice to make."
The Black King's toothy maw opened. He inhaled. "You do know why I chose to observe the battle from here?" The Black king said, his face still on Creature's blade. He backed down from the weapon, moving to towards the other side of the hill.
"The ambush was dealt with," said the Black Knight, without change in tone.
"Yes, it was. However. I am referring to my reserves, which are walking up the hill right this moment."
Slowly, Bhelith would see them. Clanking and heavy footed. Small unit of ten misshapen homunculi. Lumpy and massive, these men had the spikes of the Vekimen coming from massive hunch backs. The arms ended in either jagged blades or savagely. At the center of the incoming formation was a massive twelve-foot-tall abomination, wielding a heavy battered hammer that was the size of a grown humanoid. "You have your honor guard, and I have mine."
The black king took a whiff of the air. "A woman. How clever."
Bhelith the Blackspear turned her head and inclined it slightly to the single Ceremonial Guard behind her. The response was a bow, and the first of the Thirteen turned to regard the ten misshapen humanoids without comment.
The blade that all of them carried came free at the hip, though this guard held it backwards. The armor hefted the energy rifle by its grip in the other hand, without apparent strain. Whomever wore the armor had been a Tianshi pilot. Whomever wore the armor now, they did not seem the least bit afraid.
The Black Knight asked, "Would you like to place a bet?"
The wind kicked up. The cloth of their cloaks snapped in the wind, like flags; one black, one white, and it caught the scraps of garments that the ogre-like half-Vekimen wore and whipped them, too. The grass moved. Far below, in the field, people lived and died, and the ones who remained on the hill had the eagle eye view of it.
"A wager is for gentleman only, I am afraid. You have none with you. I find Lord Du Rochon here is a bit brutish for finery and gentlemanly affairs such as bets." The ceremonial guard's blade cleaved into flesh, and clattered against their heavy armor. The monstrosities roared, but the damage thrown at them seemed only to incense them. If was trying to have the black king outnumbered by killing his troops in one swipe. "Perhaps you should leave manly things to the men, my dear woman." He said as his own honor Guard sped up to close the distance. Soon they were only a meter or two from their lord, and held their position. The monstrosities stood, with the front row dripping across their bare areas with a fine brutal gash in their thick muscular flesh.
Creature drew up next to The Black Knight and stood with his sword ready to go.
"This is rightly your fight," the Black Knight said to Creature, "But, as I am here, which would you prefer? That is Okami. She was the first."
“Kill ‘em all, sort ‘em out later," Creature growled eying up the monstrosities and their "King."
The Black Knight looked back to the Black King. For the first time in the conversation, she sounded amused. "So? Which would your courage prefer? The brute or the girl?"
The Black King held up his hand, and dropped it. His "guards" screeched in unison, with the behemoth loosing a thunderous roar. They then surged forward taking care not to strike their liege.
"Whoever gets to who first is fine by me!" Creature said rushing forward to meet the enemy's charge.
Okami opened fire, holding the laser-slag rifle straight out with her arm and dispensing death without remorse. When they closed, she hopped, and the gravimetrics in the armor kicked in; she sailed above them, landed somewhere else, and continued at range.
The Black Knight didn't initially move until the enemy had nearly closed with her. Then, she turned her shield at an angle and, in a burst of strength, she struck one of the charging creatures with the colorless slab and half-lifted it alone. Her axe, propelled by whatever made the armor she wore so poignant, sliced clear foot and ankle, and she discarded the first to the side, towards the slant of the hill.
A blow was struck, and her shield was there. The second lost an arm, cleared at the joint, though its strike managed to move her into the ground, her heels digging sod. She settled her footing a little steadier, turned aside the blow from the thing's good arm, and then with a sickening 'chunk' she bashed the edged weapon straight into the steely bones of its ribcage. It died screaming, until she yanked the axeblade clear of its lungs, and it gurgled.
Battle and fights were always chaotic. Gore and viscera flashed all over. Creature struck one of the monsters, cleaving it in half with a swift brutal downward swing of his great sword. The Okami's rifle chewed through one of the unmoving monsters, but found a spray of toxic spit had been sent all over her. The armor didn't wear, but one of the edges of the cloak came free, eaten, and some of the paneling began to lose its color, revealing the true metal beneath.
A glaive made of the same metal as the King's armor came for the Dark Knight, a swift quick jab aimed at the joint of her right arm. It might have worked, except that the Knight turned so that the bracer caught it instead, and it glanced off with a whine and a scratch. The Dark Knight knew how to wear armor, and the turn was well practiced. She was no Valériane, wearing borrowed armor and fighting on viciousness alone.
In came the edge of her shield to the haft of the glaive, a vicious strike meant to shatter the long pole of the weapon or bash it from his hands.
The glaive snapped back as it was turned, and the Black King send the shaft forward into the shield causing a loud whine of metal as the weapon bashed into it. She would feel the shield shudder and hear the soft whine of machinery from under the king's own intricately crafted armor. He sent the bladed side of his weapon up into the unshielded part of his foe aiming to hit her in the thigh to throw her off balance. Valériane did not stand her ground, this warrior was, and the King would do the same.
But she did more than stand her ground, she gained it. Instead of dodging, the Black Knight stepped in, and robbed the strike of its leverage. The glaive struck home, but not hard enough, and when it did, the axe chopped down to maim a shoulder.
He was a man with a polearm fighting a warrior with a shield and close-in weapon. Many people had underestimated him over the weeks, the months, leading to this rebellion - this time, he had made the same mistake himself.
What saved him, it seemed, was that suddenly the fighter turned aside and, instead, slashed through one of the offending minions who had dared to interrupt the fight. Rather than getting stuck in the ribs, this time the axe struck the creature's head clean off. The body continued for a moment, trying to strike on instinct, before it toppled over in a clump.
Guarded by the shield, the Dark Knight backed, her smooth, curved helmet turning to regard him fully again as blood dripped from the axe.
The Black King danced to the right, pushing the towards her shielded flank, and keeping moving how. He stood with the glaive forward, and when she struck at his own guard, and shot the weapon forward, pulled it back, chopped and thrust. Launching into a flurry of attacks on all fronts to take advantage of that moment when his foe diverted her balance into a strike on another who was not involved.
The shield work was impeccable; at least once, twice even, his glaive made it past, but both wore armor and the blows were glancing at best. He would have to find a way to pierce her clearly; she would need to find a way to land her heavy strike.
Piercing was not the goal. Armored foes often could get fatigued by the brute force striking their armored hides, and each blow was just as powerful as the last. He kept up the flurry, but punctuated it by leaping forward with his powerful legs, the machines of his armor whirring and sending everything he had into a chop directly into the shield.
The force that met him seemed impossible to muster, but when the shield slanted as it had before and the black armored warrior shot forwards to meet him, he felt it. This was gravimetrics. She was anchoring.
The metal rang out like a gong. The strike jarred them both.
The warrioress was heavier.
This time, he found that when the shield turned aside to deflect the force, he had the opposite arm to contend with. Landing with a heavy grace to his left, the shield close-in and lower on her left side so that he could see the woman's casque, even seem to see her golden eyes through the visor, she put the axe to work.
Blow after blow, he deflected. Some off his armor, some off his glaive. He worked backwards and forwards, and the two of them paced, trading blow for blow. Whatever kept the woman on her feet, whether it was the armor itself or some preternatural effort, she continued with strike after strike. The Black King's armor bore him out well, too, and time after time he met and returned, so that it seemed their endurances would scarce allow a winner.
The warrior woman was well entrenched, but the Black King kept his flurry up. The heavier foe found he was bounding around her, his foot work kept shifting, and each movement led into another strike, dodge or parry. When a strike was returned to him and metal clashed with armor. He used his light weight to his advantage. If he was out of his weight class, however, he could counter with raw agility and freedom of movement.
They clashed in relative silence. A Vekimen, with good hearing, and an intelligent disposition, he knew that meant that his guards were dying or dead. Though he couldn't afford to take his eyes from the foe in front of him, brief glimpses showed a hill of carnage.
Creature had borne out with his usual savagery, and strangely, it seemed that except for the acid scouring her armor, the woman that the Knight had referred to as "Okami" had remained aloof and untouched.
He couldn't bother to hear the conversation, but that guard, for some reason, had stopped Creature from intervening.
Time seemed to drag on. For every strike, the Knight had a defense; for every strike of hers, he, with swiftness and natural viciousness, managed to deflect - sometimes just in time.
Finally, he saw it. She had driven him low, to the side, back and forth, and a feint with her shield had done it. The axe curved down in an arc for his visor, so close he could see the edge that dove for his eyes. For a second he stared into the face of death, or at least blindness.
He felt the slap on his visor, but nothing more, as the axe shattered into pieces. The Black Knight backed off immediately, gravity jerking her several feet away before a second BANG! rang out over the hills.
The Black King paused, and sent his glaive, into the off-balanced Black Knight, aiming for a crack in the armor around her torso, he sent everything he had into the blow. She would remember him well. It caught the Knight squarely in her center of mass and threw off her retreat enough that she slammed into the ground and skidded, for a moment, to a dead halt on the ground.
It seemed as if from nowhere, the Ceremonial Guard was there, intervening. Creature was coming as well.
His own homunculi lay dead, dismembered, and in one case, writhing at the bottom of the hill while in the distance, he could see the armies moving. Azalea company was breaking and running.
Savages curses and cheers.
The Black King grinned as her guards came for her. Creature was taking the massive abomination apart, and was occupied.
In the chaos, the Black King broke away and made himself scarce. Blood trailed behind him in his wake.
In the Lucarin Manor
After the Battle
In the Lucarin Manor, even while the wreckage was being cleared, the dark-haired "Devil of Lan Se" held an abbreviated court. Creature was not in attendance, but a simpering doctor had been called to bind the scratch that had been inflicted upon her. She sat, therefore, on a stool with her torso bare to the light and her fecund 'condition' readily apparent. It might have been the last time she would be wearing the armor. It had been a decent enough showing.
In her lap was the glaive that had accomplished the feat. Beside her, stood tall on its stand, her Paladin-prototype bore the thin scar in its paint with apparent pride. She would have to speak to the Magisters about it. And Genesis. That little glasses-wearing minx of a woman would be interested in the combat data.
In front of her were two retainers. She regarded them with a calm coolness, reminding herself that they were hers, that she had appointed them herself, and that they were not to be blamed. Like the moments before an oncoming storm however, this calm did not last for long.
"Have you had your fill, my master?" one asked. The deep and baritone notes coming from the tall, almost monk-like figure were menacing as always, but this time? The forced calm and level speech was somehow even more brooding and angry than normal; it was furious, like a hurricane trapped in a glass bottle. Towering over them all like a black specter, the bastard child made this clear as its armored fists clenched, black claws straining against its own plate. Bhelith had forbade Bresal from participating in this war in the pocket, and its resentment for this order began to show more and more, and seemed to be reaching a breaking point now that its liege had been made to bleed. She knew he chomped at the bit, like she knew the arrangement and temperament of most of her men, but hadn't yet chosen the mark for Bresal; Bhelith had heard her father talk about people as though they were hunting hawks, before, and Bresal was a longwing.
She shifted her attention to the short-winged gyrfalcon.
Lukina stood before Bhelith wearing the strange black power armor she had acquired on 605. The y-shaped visored helmet was tucked under her arm as she was silent before her mistress. Her evergreen eyes looked to the ceremonial guard.
Okami sat with her legs folded nearby, but off to the side, wearing what she pleased, which was a uniform like what Bhelith herself commonly wore; a white robe, with the green-and-gold markings that distinguished her. Beyond that, she had folded her tattooed arms, and sat, waiting. Of all of them, Bhelith had chosen the yakuza gangster for her expertise and loyalty. People were often bound up with her, and people who put such superstitious weight to blood-bindings were particularly useful.
Bhelith looked back to Lukina, then back to Bresal. Truth be told, her blood was still up, and she would have enjoyed a continuation. She had wanted to go down into the battle itself, but the appearance of her other retainers had stopped her. The wiser part of her knew that it was for the best, and that she had needed them there, and that they had made the right decision.
"For now," she answered, knowing that she sounded cryptic, herself. She held up the glaive, that black-iron spear that had pierced her breastplate. She flexed an arm and smashed the butt of it into the ceramic tile that lined out the former Lord's manor; the Hane were an ostentatious lot, even more so than she was, and the precious porcelain shattered beneath the black stud on the end.
"What do you make of this? Has it come from your people?"
"No," the daunting alien flatly replied. Taking a breath through its helmet, it explained, "The quality is too low. Shamefully so. Financed? A possibility." Turning its elongated head to more directly face the weapon, it seemed to peer at it, if only for a moment. "This one. It was made locally. The metallurgy matches common fare for buildings and the like. The other weapons, I cannot say." Turning its head towards Bhelith ever so slightly, it added, "I have yet to take to the field."
Lukina waited a long moment after the guard had spoken before she added her information. "I found where the Black Army retrieved the sutakame equipment from. It is likely they were refining the scraps they found in the wreckage of the crashed hulk for these purposes as well. The site has been destroyed."
Bhelith leaned the black-bladed spear against her shoulder, listening to Lukina for a while. She weighed her. The girl looked too young for this, and Bhelith had her doubts, but the spark in her eyes was the same as before, if a little marred. Did her lips quiver? No. Bhelith, therefore, straightened a bit.
"Thank you." She made sure to give those words a bit of gravity, before shooting a significant look at the doctor ministering to her. "Are you finished?"
"This was a single site, there are likely to be more that have been overlooked from the war. The Xeno crash site might still hold more... concerns if these insurgents get a hold of the materials," Lukina suggested, her voice was soft as she held the helmet firmly under her arm. Her rifle was slung behind her shoulder. Her armor was still covered in drying blood.
"Their technology is distinct from your own - you would know immediately if it saw use," Bresal spoke firmly. Crossing its arms over its chest, the alien seemed to calm somewhat, if only for the moment.
"Today, in the Ministry's newest toy, with a Tianshi’s strength and a shield forged out of the hardest substance known to the Hane," Bhelith drew out, a little bit more dramatically than she absolutely had to - but, people liked that, generally; "I went blow for blow with some savage in a cobbled together powered armor made from sutakame scrap? No. Someone made it, or sold it to him, and that is beyond local capabilities."
One handed, she spun the spear horizontal, her fingers sure.
"This punched through an inch of latanium. I wish to know why. More specifically, I wish to know whom."
"The weapon is crude, unremarkable," Bresal began, huffing in annoyance. "I believe it is not the weapon, but the user. This so-called 'Black King'," the alien continued, disdain dripping from its voice, "Its body is beyond what nature provides. Else, the young Knight would have survived that fatal blow," the bastard child suggested, referring to Valériane. Again, it clenched its fists. Events did not make it happy. "The weapon had to have the force necessary to exploit the breach made by its sharp edge, monomolecular or not. That suit could have just as easily been made locally, or given. When gifting, my people are sure to do so with care."
Bhelith looked to Lukina, waiting. She had more than one retainer.
"These rabble have some military training. Some military grade Taianese, Shouwei, and Xeno equipment. That sniper could precisely shoot me while using stealth technology, they are more than they appear. Someone is supporting them from the shadows and giving them the means to make this war. They have ogre and mao zhanshi in their ranks as well. Depending on that training, it is possible they have the skillsets to refine and re-forge these materials. This planet is a treasure trove for leftover equipment. It is possible that the Heise might linger as well. I have not been able to take a person of note alive."
Okami, her guard, looked up from the corner, her mask irresolute. Her brown eyes peered out from behind the half-thing. "I was only able to triangulate where the shot that broke your axe came from after the fact."
Settling the spear in her lap, Bhelith folded her arms over it, consequently also warming her upper body, which was bare for the most part. Her left breast had been pierced, but not deeply, and the doctor was still suturing the wound. It would join her list of new scars. She had a series of them, in various states of healing; Bhelith had, just as the 'Black King' had said, been fighting single-handedly in the darkness.
Because, for the most part, it amused her to do it. But, it seemed that now her amusement was a little spent; this had gone beyond a fun little territorial dispute to the possibility of an outside aggressor, and that meant returning to the capital. That meant putting on the crown and the robe and watching her followers scour the stars from a captain's seat somewhere.
"The Roma," she listed, "Alliance Bounty Hunters. The lost Prince. Cixi, perhaps, though I would not credit her with duplicity; she is far blunter. Bresal?" She looked to the feather-crested Knight, speculatively. "Has your mother located the body?"
"Ayana lives," the alien's deep voice replied. "She will be retrieved, provided the pieces will fall into place faster," it remarked with some irritation.
Okami provided. "We are still searching for the Prince. Though, we have discovered a way to check souls, we are thirteen combing through three billion." Bhelith didn't miss the look that her guard gave Lukina, though she didn't pursue or comment on it, just stored it away for later inspection at another time.
Bhelith calculated. She closed her eyes, thinking.
"Intelligence must be gathered more closely from the core of our foe to ascertain if another Great House is interfering," Bresal began, echoing what they already knew. "A new asset has become available however." Gesturing a black armored claw at the redheaded elf, it asked, "You have become familiar with It. The skillset It has should be put well to use - interrogation can occur on the spot. There will be no resisting," the alien ominously stated with confidence.
Bresal, Okami, and finally because she had to, Bhelith looked at Lukina, arching a black-dyed eyebrow.
"I am becoming increasingly familiar with Bob and his capabilities. He is willing to assist us," Lukina replied with a nod. "If I am permitted to use such means to extract information. He is willing to help, to seek vengeance for the loss of his friend... he was one of the many that loved the Huoshio."
"She stayed and fought." Bhelith winced as another stitch went in, but she didn't sound it, just gave the doctor another annoyed look, satisfied that the field medic was sufficiently cowed. It was another one of those Helashio that had flocked to the province. Bhelith weighed the merit of telling all of them the truth about just why Valériane hadn't taken to her heels when she could have, but the Monarch in her decided against it. Instead she said, "I should like to see the province's new Lord do her some honor. A holiday, some statue. Kowloon needs its heroes."
"Though you will not lose me now, I ask you let me tend to the embers once this debacle is finished Master," the black robed alien began. "Young knights should not have such ignoble deaths," it remarked with some ire.
"Catch." Bhelith tossed the spear to Bresal, the weapon stopping mid-air before the alien. "I shall task you with this. Find me the smith that made this beast's weapons and armor, and drag him before me, or before that acquaintance of Lukina's. I believe the 'victorious' army went east and took to the forest."
"There are few places to hide there during the winter. There are some caverns that would provide their forces the most shelter from the elements in those forests. He is likely to have another nest there... the other was 100 strong," the half-elf remarked softly.
'Nest'. Bhelith disliked that word immensely. She settled her hands on her knees, sitting in what the samurai would have known to be their posture of attention. Bhelith breathed out. That's what they were, weren't they? The Vekimen? Worse than sutakame, and spreading just as fast. Tai Pan had driven the sutakame to the ends of the stars, and their progenitors were still out there, elusive as the shadow-stuff they traversed. But who knew anything about the Vekimen?
Slowly, Bhelith said, as though the idea were new-formed, "Such a warrior does not exist, that would go completely unnoticed through the world. The Vekimen have only recently joined the other races in the stars. It is not as though there are no records. What name did he use?"
"It will be found," Bresal began. "Do you wish me to remain in the shadows, or take to the field?" it asked.
"Quietly." Bhelith stared at a point somewhere fixed between the two of them, and slightly down, gathering her thoughts. She would need to return to the Capital. Without meaning to, she frowned just slightly.
"Yes, my mistress," the black robed figure bowed with respect.
"I will find that sniper," Lukina resolved.
Bhelith, out of the corner of her eye, caught the doctor staring at her wide-eyed. "What?"
"Um..." said the nurse, from where she was crouched, suddenly at the center of attention and uncomfortable with it. Bhelith couldn't help but notice that whatever Hane had spawned her from whatever vat the Huoshio came from, he had a taste for big-titted slaves. The woman in her, rooted somewhere in the core of her soul, found this utterly sick and distasteful. The Hane were a foul species, and the Huoshio they had conquered were simpering as a result. Even the 'hero' of the day had needed to be practically smacked before she did as she was required to do.
Bhelith momentarily repressed those thoughts, though she did stare at the girl.
But, she thought to herself, that girl had proved out in the end, after all. Perhaps there was something there worth looking at.
The doctor continued, unaware of the ire directed at her. "Who are you? I mean for the uh, for the records. I mean."
A dark and sinister chuckle exited from Bresal, and it sparked a bit of humor in Bhelith.
"I'm your Lord Empress."
"By your leave, then, My Lady, I have a predator to take down," the half-elf knight bowed deeply to Bhelith, placing her right fist over her heart. When she rose, she donned the helmet and activated the seals, disappearing into the light.
"By your leave, My Master," Bresal spoke, following the redhead's example. Bowing again, it too faded from sight.
"Arleigh-oyabun," came the third voice, though Okami didn't rise, but remained seated nearby, where she would now remain until Bhelith herself returned to Soran Nast.
The doctor gaped, and Bhelith gave her attention to the little blonde creature again.
"Well, get on with it," she ordered the stunned medic, "I do not have all evening."