Keimen Kingdom, Shandel City
The streets of the city were empty, save the patrol guards that were active all night. There had been a curfew set in place for both citizens and outsiders, after an incident that occurred a month ago. This incident had revealed an infestation of succubi and incubi in the city's walls, so for the protection of everyone, no one was allowed to roam the dangerous streets at night.
Two people were sneaking through the dark alleyways of the city, having no problem seeing as they both had skills that were useful in such conditions. Both were cloaked figures that moved swiftly, barely making a single sound or drawing any attention to themselves.
Their original destination was Boulderdane City, the capital of Keimen, but post a certain event involving shadow demons, their target had been redirected to Shandel City. Having travelled from one city to the other in the past week, it was no surprise that they were exhausted and in a hurry. Well, one of them was exhausted.
They arrived at a wall that was hidden in between two buildings. This wall had a door fixed into it. The door was a plain wooden one, too short for any regular person to walk though comfortably, but big enough that they didn't have to crawl. This door was impossible to move with strength alone – many had tried and failed. Some people were starting to feel like the door was an illusion and that there was nothing but a wall behind it.
The door was very much real and there was something behind it.
One of the two figures approached the door and knocked on it in a particular pattern. 3 rapid knocks, 2 slow knocks and a final jab.
"Password.", a bulky voice requested from the other side of the door.
"Grimm Black.", this wasn't the password for most users, but for special members such as himself, this was more than enough to gain him access.
Silently, the door opened up, revealing an empty space. Grimm and his compatriot passed through, and were met with the cold gaze of a burly man looking down on them. He scanned them suspiciously, but spoke nothing and shut the door the moment they were both through.
He lit up a torch and handed it over to Grimm, then pointed in a direction for them to head to. Without any words, they headed off through a narrow path. It was minutes of walking in silence before they spotted a light bleeding through strings of beads up ahead.
Hurriedly, Grimm quenched the fire on his torch and dropped it on the ground before passing through the beads and emerging out onto a lit-up area. Before them, there was a counter with a bunch of shelves loaded with alcohol of all sorts behind it. A shirtless man was attending to a customer that sat before him. All around, tables had been set up, filled with various groups of sketchy people, all conversing, eating or drinking and women in skimpy outfits going around, serving the customers.
Once the beads rattled, everyone lifted their heads to look at the duo that had just appeared. A necessary precaution in case the patrol guards found a way to infiltrate this little secret spot of theirs. Once they noticed who it was, they all looked away, returning to whatever they were doing.
One of the women sneakily retreated, but both Grimm and his companion easily noticed this. They chose to ignore it and rather focus on completing their main objective.
They went straight to the counter and sat down. Grimm tapped on the counter, summoning the bar tender who came over immediately with a scowl on his face. "What'll it be?"
"The usual." The man scoffed at Grimm's reply then walked to the room behind his shelves, leaving the duo alone.
Both sat in silence for a while, waiting for the man to return with what they needed. The person seated next to Grimm looked around the area, although not out of necessity, but purely due to intrigue. This was their first time being in such a place and it was hard to keep their excitement down as they were supposed to be undercover here.
They stopped however, when they noticed that the person seated next to Grimm was staring at them. The person was hooded themselves, but their features were easily seen. Pale wrinkly skin, with dark bags under their eyes and crows' feet. Their hair was a mess of black, grey and white and their dark eyes peered right into the person's eyes.
'Stop looking at her. You'll only get unnecessary attention.', Grimm sent her a telepathic message, and she immediately averted her eyes to look at the counter.
'Sorry. It's all so new to me.', she apologised and started to play with her fingers to pass the time. As she did this, someone took a seat next to her.
She didn't need to see the person to know that it was the older woman she was making eye contact with just moments ago. This time however, the woman was staring intently at her. Now, she wasn't sure what to do. She didn't mind being looked at, but she had gained unwanted attention, just like Grimm had warned her about.
"Can we help you?", Grimm spoke finally, trying to get the woman off her back.
"It's been a while, Red.", the woman ignored Grimm and spoke to the woman named Red. Behind the mask, Grimm's eyes widened in shock as he hadn't expected to run into any of Red's acquaintances that he personally wasn't aware of.
'Should I say something?', Red asked, hoping to avoid any mistakes. After all, she did request to come on this mission when Grimm wanted to go by himself.
'Just use Red's memories to get this over with.', he gave her the green light, so she smiled.
"Huh? Who the hell are you?", she took on a crude persona in an instant. The woman scoffed then laughed.
"You still have that shitty tone, huh?", she patted Red on the back. Red resisted the urge to punch the woman in the face in that moment.
"Seriously, if you won't tell me who you are, just get lost.", she searched through all of Red's memories instantly, but a face didn't come to mind when she looked at the old woman who appeared to be on her last legs.
"Yeah. I guess you wouldn't remember me. We're both… different now, I guess.", she said with a sorrowful smile on her face. Her eyes were one of someone with great regret, but she couldn't understand why.
Fortunately, this awkward conversation didn't have to continue any further. The barkeep returned and slammed a scroll on the counter, right in front of the odd woman. She smirked, then took the scroll.
"I guess I'll be seeing you around then, Red.", waving at her, the woman took off.
'Does she look like anyone in Red's memories?', it wasn't like Grimm hadn't anticipated meeting anyone from Red's past. It was one of the reasons he was sceptical about bringing her along in the first place. Red had connections to some less than pleasant folks, but you never knew when they could be useful.
'I'm not sure, but she talks like someone called Charlotte.', matching the woman's voice and mannerisms to an image in her memories, she responded.
'Charlotte, huh? You have any idea what sort of relationship the two have?'
Red shook her head. All she could get from the incomplete memories were images and little bits of conversation between the two, but nothing else. Having a complete lack of emotional intelligence as well, she wasn't able to determine just how close the two were so trying to find out from her was a dead end.
"There'll be a meeting in two days. Would you like me to inform them of your arrival?", the barkeep asked, completely emotionless.
"Nah. This is good enough. I've got a different request though." He reached into his cloak and started to search through before pulling out a scroll. "Give this to her for me."
The barkeep eyed the scroll suspiciously before accepting it with a grunt.
The duo left quietly.
In the West, close to Hinotori's mansion, the army of monsters from the North were all being monitored intensely by chosen guards from the West. Hob-goblins and Fenrir alliance kept a good eye on the monsters ensuring that not even a single one of them could make a stupid move.
It had been 3 days since they were captured and most hadn't even been given the slightest drop of water. Occasionally, one of Hinotori's captains would march up to come inspect them, but generally, the responsibility fell down to a certain hob-goblin known as Baka.
As much as most didn't enjoy his company, they all took into consideration that Shitsuke had still chosen him as his choice for the next tribal leader for the goblins of Ooo. Currently, Baka was riding on the back of a timber wolf, being followed closely by his two brothers.
They were making rounds, making sure to not get too close to the captured enemy. A massive wall of earth had been conjured up by the goblins that discovered affinities for magic – with the assistance of the two dark elves – and the sky was covered by a barrier that rained down lightning on anything that tries to fly in its range, rendering the opponents essentially paralysed, but one could never be too careful.
"It's been kinda quiet since we beat these idiots.", the hob-goblin to his right said.
Post their victory against the North, they hadn't heard anything. Rumours of a battle ongoing against the East at the Eastern border had surfaced, but no one had heard anything anymore. Usually, communication was easy and fast, but ever since Hinotori's evolution begun her blessing on them had also started to falter. This had started to create some doubt about her surviving it, but that was another topic on its own.
"I'd like to see the useless bastards show their face again. Kekeke.", cockily, he mocked the North. The other hob-goblin grunted in response, and the trio continued their usual surveillance.
The enemy – mountain trolls and goblins, were quiet and exhausted. Something about the change in environment wasn't doing them any good as they found being down below unbearably hot. The manticores simply watched, showing no obvious fatigue, but it was evident that they had all singled out one single manticore – the manticore king. The reason was unknown to the West.
Upon finishing their rounds, the trio was just about to go laze about when two unexpected visitors popped up.
A pair of war ogresses, both twice the size of the goblins and Timberwolves combined, yet both giving off completely different auras. One wore nothing more than a simple white robe whereas the other was clad in dark armour from neck to toe. A claymore rested at her hip and a whip next to it. Both had similar features – dark violet hair, grey scaly skin, golden eyes – except the one in armour looked far older, like an elder sister.
Both were bickering when they came in.
"I told you, there's no need for this.", the younger one spat. 𝙞𝑛𝓷𝓇𝒆a𝑑. 𝙘૦𝗺
"I just want to be on the safe side. You never know with Karon.", the older one retorted, her eyes scanning their surroundings.
"Tch, you should be resting."
"I'm a war ogre. What more rest do I need? We are born to dominate the battlefield.", she argued.
It was common knowledge that war ogres existed purely for combat purposes. Their entire body was centred on given them an edge in battle, and as such, war ogres were an extremely feared race. Fortunately, there hadn't been a proper war in a long time and the war ogre race had dwindled. Their need for war had incited an internal battle which ended with most of them dying out. Only a few remained and that few had become royalty amongst the various ogre clans in the world.
"What are you two doing here?", Baka, unamused by the out of the blue visit, stopped them in their tracks. Both wouldn't have even noticed him were it not for the timber wolf he was riding on.
"Oh, uh, sorry, but my sister wanted to survey the area.", the younger ogress said apologetically.
"Huh? We've already done that. You can return.", he rejected their request without so much as a second thought. Normally, he couldn't care less what anybody did, but considering they were both ogres, he wasn't too trusting of them, especially the one clad in armour.
"Move aside.", the one in armour however, clearly wasn't taking no for an answer. She tried to push forward, but Baka moved in front of her with a snarl.
"I said no. I'm in charge here.", it was a reasonable argument, but the armoured ogre completely ignored his words and walked past him, little care for the beast he was riding on.
Perhaps, it was due to her life in the East before, but she struggled to follow the orders of anyone other than her father, let alone creatures that barely entered her eyes.
"Sister, you can't simply do that! We're not in the East anymore.", Kara ran after her sister, trying to convince her to stop in her tracks, but even she was no match for the hard-headedness of her family.
"Oi! You li-", Baka just about ready to explode when his brother called to him.
"Brother, maybe we should let her do what she wants. I mean, the younger one is Kara, right? One of the leader's wives."
"So? They still need to follow rules!"
"Are you going to pick a fight with a war ogre? Even 50 of us wouldn't be enough to get her to excited." Hob-goblins definitely couldn't hope to take down a war ogre. It took 5 of their best to take down a single strong troll. A war ogre was the equivalent of a god when compared to the hob-goblins.
"Tch. If only I was a war ogre.", Frustrated by the difference in strength, he could only mutter under his breath. A hand landed on his shoulder and when he looked, he saw his second brother. The brother grunted, saying more than enough.
"You're right. We should be aiming to get stronger than them."
"Together." The other brother placed his hand on Baka's other shoulder.
The sudden support warmed Baka's heart. He held both hands and was about to agree, but just then, the sky boomed. The silhouette of a massive dragon spread across the crowds, followed by its enraged roar. The lightning of the barrier was being absorbed by the dragon and in no time, the barrier itself collapsed.
Looking up in the sky, everyone could see something dropping from the sky. Behind it, a big streak of the lightning that once littered the sky followed like a predator chasing its prey.
The trio couldn't remember what exactly happened after the lightning struck the ground.
There was a loud noise. Maybe the ground shook? Maybe the world itself spun?
None of them were sure. Nothing made sense anymore before they all blacked out.
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