Valia had wanted nothing more than a simple life, followed by a simple death. All her life up to the battle of Waxion, her most cherished desire had been to outlive her mother, an ordinary, generic, nothing special guardswoman who survived six battles before finally being captured and sacrificed by Chaos cultists. She did not know anything about her father, neither his face nor his service record except he died fighting the Great Enemy as well, but she was sure his lifespan was even shorter than her mother. On Cadia, longevity was not measured in terms of how many years one lived, but how many engagements one participated in service to the Holy Emperor. One could waste their entire life and die in shame never seeing combat as easily as being canonised and martyred with honour despite not surviving even fifteen minutes of their first battle.

What she had never expected was being given the title hero after her actions proved pivotal in the victory against a heretical army, even though they were manipulated from the start.

She did not anticipate to become a member of an elite strike force led by a commander who was half-xeno, nor meet the people who she could call friends with certainty.

And when the mission to protect a Tau leader from assassination was received, she was caught completely off-guarded.

"Why the heck are we doing this?" Randy started complaining as the group had their meeting in the common room. Upon arrival on Sept Shes'bel where the negotiation between the Tau and Imperial officials would take place, the team had been put up in a luxurious hotel, a fact that had appalled Randy. A death world citizen born and bred, being surrounded by cushions and having hot water coming out of a tap made him feel like a farm animal caught up in a big city. "Has everybody in High Command lost their mind already? A peace treaty with the Blueskins, is this real? After all the efforts we have spent, the sacrifices we have made, all for nothing?"

"They are calling it, the most magnificent event of the century," said Mkeller, as nonchalant as always. Out of everyone, the Tanith was the only person who showed neither surprise nor resistance to the bizarre order. In fact, Valia could not remember when was the last time he showed any emotion at all. Perhaps that kind of attitude was what it took to be a sniper.

Or perhaps he was just an asshole.

Having been in his company for the last two months, Valia was inclined to think it was the latter.

"And I am calling it a bucket-load of groxcrap," said Randy dismissively.

"That is one way to put it, I guess," said Mkeller.

"Relax," Alastor assured. Another soldier with a death world upbringing, he seemed to enjoy the luxury of this trip, having already removed his mask, changed his clothes to a more casual outfit, taken a shower and gotten himself a cold drink. With blond hair, blue eyes and long chin, he looked quite handsome without his rebreather. "We are not making friends with the entirety of the Tau, just a small part of it. And as far as I heard, this part we are befriending recently seceded from their empire, so I am certain we are still fighting against the Tau Empire after this."

"They are nothing but cowards and opportunists," Randy persisted. "They are always speaking about peace and understanding, but in the end, they just want a piece of our land and our people to convert to their heretic faith. What good can an alliance with them do to us? I bet they are just waiting for us to let our guards down so that they can influence us with all their Greater Good nonsense.?"

"Say whatever you want," said Alastor. "Our commander has given us the order, and we shall perform it or die trying."

"Sorry," said Randy derisively. "But I am not the type of soldier who would follow orders so blindly. If everyone on Catachan has the same mindset as the Death Korp of Krieg, we would all be extinct by now."

"What did you say?" Alastor demanded. "You have no right to use that comparison as an excuse for insubordination."

"Insubordination is still a world better than the heresy we are taking part in," Randy retorted.

"Heresy?" exclaimed the Ogryn Gutsman. "Iz we doin' heresy? Me no like heresy."

"No, we are not," Alastor assured. "Don't get any wrong idea out of this. What we are doing here is out of purity of spirit and beneficial to the Imperium. He is just overreacting; that's all. Typical of people who lynch their commissars at the first opportunity and put that to stray bullets from the enemy."

"You should show your commissars some more respect," commented Mkeller. "The First and Only of old were led by a commissar themselves, and they are the forefather of every Tanith regiment you see today."

"Kommissars is good people," Gutsmann added, unknowingly steering the debate further from its original topic. "Ya shood not lunch dem. Not even dinna. Dey is tough meat, don't taste very good. Good people tastes bad."

"It is pointless trying to argue with any of you," said Randy, exasperated at the fact that this was going nowhere. He turned towards Valia who had remained silent for the duration of the discussion, her face stiff and eyes wide open. "Valia, how about you? Do you agree with what I am saying?"

Valia hesitated. On one hand, she wanted to answer yes. Everything she had been indoctrinated with so far had not been favourable towards any alliance with xenos, the Tau being no exception. Armed with advanced technologies and the false promise of prosperity, their nascent empire expanded at an exponential rate at the end of the 41st and the beginning of the 42nd millennium. They would have toppled the Imperium if not for the immense effort from multiple Astartes Chapters, Knightly Houses, Skitarii legions and Astra Militarum battle groups. Even now, with no map showing the borderline between the Imperium and the Tau Empire, conflicts between the two factions were still commonplace.

On the other hand, Inquisitor Amelda Eisenhorn was very supportive of this treaty. This struck Valia as a surprise considering his many battles against them so far. While it would be easy to say that he simply got tired of killing them and decided to try a different approach instead, Valia desperately wanted to believe there was a good cause behind this, that whatever instinct he put forward was reliable. After spending so much time idolizing him, it would break Valia's heart if there were not.

"I think we should give them a chance," she said finally. "I mean, we have quite enough on our hands already with the Orks and Forces of Chaos. Necron and Tyranids remnants were spotted in the sector, and it would be only a matter of time before they become a threat as well. If the Tau Empire, or just a fraction of it, and the Imperium can bury the hatchets and join hands, we will have a better chance of standing against them."

With a deep sigh, Randy conceded, "If you say so, then there is no reason for me to continue arguing anymore. Still, don't expect me to feel comfortable doing this."

"Go feth yourself," replied Mkeller. "That might make you feel better."

"A Guardsman's duty is to die in the name of the Holy Emperor," said Alastor evenly. "He must never think of himself nor question his orders nor show anything except hatred and fury towards the foe which he has no personal reasons against and which has done him no wrong. You think anyone is comfortable doing so?"

With a deathly silence, the discussion came to an end and each member receded to their respective room. Valia felt hungry. Though the rations she brought was enough to last her a month, they did not taste very good, as all foodstuffs in the Astra Militarum were. Furthermore, a sense of curiosity hit her as she began to question what the Tau ate and whether such food could be fed to humans as well. The possibility of poisoning notwithstanding, there was also the risk of mental contamination, something that was all too common for faithful Imperial servants who were exposed to Tau lifestyle for too long. The others had refrained from any contact with the Tau until the ceremony, but the more Valia thought about, the more she found that kind of response irrational.

But of course, nothing in the galaxy was ever rational to begin with.

With that in mind, Valia headed down to the ground floor. The Tau she came across all took notice of her. While their expressions were all alien to her, Valia found the overall lack of hostility and xenophobic patent. She wondered what kind of beliefs the Tau had in order to accept members of other races so quickly like that. If a single Tau were walking among Imperial citizens, a few deathly scorns would be the best possible outcome, a planetary witch-hunt the most likely and Exterminatus the worst.

Suddenly, a finger poked at her chin. Valia drew her weapon only to find she did not have any, but took up a defensive posture, nevertheless. A wave of confusion surged through her as she looked upon her assailant and saw a child who was saying something excitedly as though finally touching a human was an achievement to it. Blue-skinned and having a strange Y-shape where the nose should have been, it was still adorable and the sight of such innocence, even among the xenos, made Valia's heart lightened.

"Bao chien," said the Tau woman accompanying the child. Valia had no idea what she was saying, but judging by her apologetic tone and bowing head, she could assume the woman was trying to say sorry.

"It's no big deal," Valia replied. "I'm all right."

As the mother walked his son away, Valia could not help but formed a grin on her face. Being exposed to another culture actually felt more refreshing than she imagined. The Tau, as a race, was full of curiosity. At some point in history, mankind was exactly like that, naive and overconfident, always question and exploring and trying to experiment with everything they had got. But that was in the past now. Valia had no idea what had happened to change mankind's outlook so dramatically like that, but from what she had learned, it nearly caused the extinction of the human race. She wondered what would become of the Tau as they headed along the same path mankind had once trodden but long abandoned.

This was not the time to think of stuff like that, Valia told herself. She was hungry. She would go to the restaurant, get some food, have a look around, go back to her room and call it a day. That was precisely what she was going to do.

"Welcome, dear customer," said the Water Caste waiter as Valia made her seat. The Tau spoke Low Gothic fluently and gave her a warm, reassuring smile. "How can we serve you tonight?"

Valia took a look at the menu and saw nothing she could comprehend. "I am not sure what I can have myself. Do you have any….suggestion?"

"Why, yes," the waiter replied. "Our restaurant has served gue'vesa before. They all seem to like this one. They said it was excellent." He pointed at a specific dish which looked like noodle in a bowl of soup.

"I will have it then," she said.

"I will have the same as her," said the psyker next to Valia.

The witch Agatha was sitting right next to her!

Valia nearly jumped from her seat at the realisation. Even the Tau waiter seemed surprised. Neither of them had seen her coming in. To make it even more creepy, she wore a device which covered most of her head, leaving only her mouth and chin exposed. Though her appearance was similar to that of a young child, that could not fool anyone into thinking she was normal and harmless, not even the Tau who had no presence in the Warp. For all they knew, Agatha might be a ghost coming to haunt them both.

"You two are…together?" asked the waiter nervously.

"Yes, we are," Agatha replied casually. She was considered the wild card of the team and had been avoided ever since they arrived on this planet. The fact she was personally assigned by Inquisitor Eisenhorn made no difference whatsoever. Nobody wanted to be anywhere near a person who had been touched by the Warp, lest their very soul was compromised.

For this mission, neither commander Valentine Windsong nor vice-commander Amelda Eisenhorn would be participating. Instead, they were supposed to lead the 11th Mordian Iron Guards, aka the Silver Swan, for a last hurrah against the Tyranids on the world Clyptos VIII. Leitdorf would also not be part of the team and had chosen to stay with his regiment.

As the waiter left to take their orders, Valia looked at Agatha with trepidation. There were good reasons why every faithful servant of the Emperor feared and abhorred witches. Even if this one was sanctioned by the Inquisition and trusted by Amelda Eisenhorn himself, that did not make Valia feel any easier. Her last experience with a psyker had involved her having a vision of a macabre sex scene between the Emperor and Slaanesh (how the heck could that XXX get so large? Gods they might be, but there had got to be a limit for that). The Inquisitor had specifically requested that no touching should be allowed on the ground that Agatha was extremely shy and resistant to all contacts save for the Inquisitor himself. Valia had no problem with that; all the more reason to stay the heck away from this mutant abomination.

Without thinking, she moved further from the witch whose attention was drawn entirely to the menu or more precisely, the pictures of delicious food on it.

"You are different from the others," said Agatha, still not looking at Valia. "Any faithful Imperial servant, as far as I am concerned, would rather starve to death than to accept anything from the likes of the Tau."

"Well, are you not one of them?" Valia replied.

"No, I am not," Agatha said casually. "I also suppose that any faithful Imperial servant would be at least agitated by what I just said, but you seem too…intimidated to be hateful."

Valia took a gulp, trying to retain her composure as best she could. The presence of the psyker was bad news enough, her bringing up this kind of question which had been tearing the team's apart made Valia even more uneasy. "I am just curious; that's all. The Imperium has more enemies than allies and among our enemies, the Tau are unique in the sense that they can be reasoned with. Warring is not part of their nature, and the reason why they are fighting us is not that dissimilar from the reason we are fighting them. The people here are also friendly, so I thought I should go and have a look around."

"They are friendly, yes, because the Ethereal orders all humans to be treated kindly," explained Agatha. "If he told them to rip your head off, they would carry it out without a moment's hesitation."

"Then I suppose we should stay on their good side for the duration of this trip, then," said Valia sharply. She could see the witch's lips curl into a smile.

"Well said, Valia-human. Perhaps the Imperium would benefit from having people like you." She then changed the subject, "I just bumped into your crush on my way here. He called me a Warp-born wretch. As far as I can remember, people have been trying to get away from me as soon as they can. And yet, here you are, still having a conversation with me."

"Well, I…," Valia was at a loss of word for a moment. On one hand, she really really really did not want to be anywhere within ten miles of a psyker, less she started having flashbacks of that horrendous sex scene. On the other, the witch did not seem hostile at all and even Inquisitor Amelda Eisenhorn had stressed the importance of protecting her for she only played the role as a support with no self-defense whatsoever. If Valia was giving the Tau a second chance, then maybe this witch deserved one as well. Besides, she looked kinda cute despite most of her face hidden from view. "I have met evil psykers before, and I cannot call that experience pleasant. However, you seem…harmless enough, no offence. I don't think…., wait a minute. My crush?"

"Randy the Catachan-human," said Agatha. "You have feelings for him, don't you?"

Valia's face flustered. Randy was everything the man she dreamed to mate with: muscular body, tanned skin, caring personality and a formidable resilience against all kinds of poisons. After he had saved her from those heretical maniacs, she had been harbouring love towards him, though given her tendency to have cold feet, she had never made her move.

"How do you know?" Valia asked.

Agatha shrugged. "I am a psyker and your mind is like an open book."

"Well, I would rather keep those thoughts personal," Valia insisted. That was one thing she hated about psykers, always probing into someone else's mind like a thief. She frightfully wondered what other secrets Agatha had found out.

"Between the two of us should be personal enough," said Agatha, grinning. Valia continued to blush. "Just a warning, though. The previous woman who shared the bedroom with him single-handedly beat an Ork to death with her bare hands, and she barely managed to pull through. I have peered into his mind. Do you want to know what happened?"

"How about no?"

"Well, it all began with…."

(The following content has been removed by the Inquisition due to HEAVY HERETICAL CONTENT. Ad glorium et Imperator.)

Valia was in dumbfounded shock after hearing that. She did not know what was most horrifying out of that: the erotic details meticulously explained, the fact it came from the mouth of what looked to be a young child or the cold hard truth that her body was not at the level that could survive intimidate interactions with Randy for even a minute. If anything, it made her desire for him even stronger, despite it being out of desperation and hopelessness. At this point, the Tau waiter returned with two bowls of noodle laid in front of them.

"Have a nice meal," he said.

As Valia struggled to understand how the Tau could eat something like this with two sticks instead of a fork, Agatha had already dug in, holding both sticks in one hand and deftly scooping the noodle to her mouth. After some tries, Valia gave up and asked the Tau waiter for a fork, which he quickly provided.

The taste was terrific. The best food she had had her entire life. The tenderness of the noodle, the flavour of the soup, the everything else, they were all perfect. Even what was considered fine dining by Imperial standard was poor compared to this dish before her. If any Imperial servant defected to the Tau because of the noodle, then Valia would give them her sympathy (most likely in the form of a quick, painless kill), for this was just delicious beyond measure.

"I like this conversation," said Agatha. "Maybe we should have more. I know. I will move to your room, and we will have all the time in the world together. I once peeked into my parents' room when they are wrestling with one another. I cannot wait to tell you all what I saw."

Valia nearly threw out her mouth's content at that. Perhaps it was one of the few positives of not knowing her parents: for the very least, she would not be exposed to something like that until puberty. Tonight was going to be a very long awkward night in her life.

Shas'ui Shi'va did not like his job at watch post 42. While everyone else was in the capital waiting for the Ethereal to arrive, he was stuck out here guarding a route that barely anyone ever touched. However, knowing that his deed, no matter how small and insignificant, would still contribute to the Greater Good as a while, Shi'va had no complaint to make. Security had been tightened more than ever for this remarkable event, and a dozen more garrisons and checkpoints had been set up to provide just that. Many of them proved rather redundant and watch post 42 was one of them. Hardly any traffic every cross here, the route mostly abandoned at this point due to migration away from the empty mines that it connected to the capital.

It was midnight. Seeing that nobody would cross his post anytime soon, Shi'va managed himself a nap before being rudely awakened by a loud noise. As he watched from the pict-cap, a truck of gue'vesa design was entering the checkpoint. With a deep sigh, he brought himself up and went out to have a check.

"License," he demanded. Wordlessly, the driver who looked to be a young gue'vesa female passed it out to him. "Frozen meat, huh? It's like we have not gotten enough of the stuff already."

"Can't blame you," said the driver. "There is going to the big party going on in the city. We shall see what is enough or not."

"Alright." Suddenly, Shi'va heard strange sounds coming from the truck. The scan showed nothing out of the ordinary, just a bunch of meat hanging. The temperature inside was also within what would be expected for a frozen meat preservation chamber. "Did you hear that?"

"Must have been the mat slipping from the hook," replied the driver. "I'll get that sorted out."

More peculiar sounds, almost like something was rolling on the floor instead of just falling onto it. There was no mistaking it; something was definitely fishy here. "I will need to have a look at that," said Shi'va. "Can you open the cargo for me?"

"It's nothing, really," the driver insisted. "I don't think opening the truck before reaching the destination is a good idea. The environment outside is hardly the right one to preserve the meat."

"Don't worry," said Shi'va. "It will only take a few seconds. Then, you can go."

"I am running a bit late here. I need to make this delivery in time."

"The less you try to argue with me, the sooner you will go. Now, I expect no less than full cooperation from you, or you might face prosecution for obstruction of duty."

"Fine, then," said the driver with a sigh. "Go and have a look. It's all fresh meat in there."

The hatch at the back of the truck opened and let out a chilling breeze. Shi'va motioned his comrades to follow him for a check, not knowing what horrible fate awaited them.

The assassins knew they had to act. They had been itching for this moment for a time ever since they were deployed on this espionage mission. One of them, in particular, lacked the patient to hold still and not killing anything for even an hour. His wish came true the moment the Tau Fire Warriors arrived at the back of the truck for a check. Howling with a maddening fury like a tormented caged animal at its release, Golac the Bloodseeker, former captain of the 23rd Hadakonia Skull Hacker Regiment, slashed at them with his chainaxe before any of them could react. The arc was wide and the weapon long. Golac's howl turned into laughter seeing how all five heads were cut off from the body by a single swing.

That made 423 kills so far.

The other two with him in the truck followed by his example and engaged the Tau with no less zeal. Manet, elite sniper of the Hidden Ecstasy Cult, took shots at the Tau seeking cover. With every skull exploded into a mess of shattered bone and brain matter, her heart beat faster as uncontrollable pleasure course through her body. The look on her victims' face in their last moments was priceless; none of them had expected to be hit so accurately at such distance. When she dedicated her life to the Prince of Pleasure, her vision was improved so that she could peer into the darkest of corners and examine every minuscule object with utter precision. So far, she had been using her gift well to aid her comrades whose pleasure brought her even more pleasure for herself.

A veteran of countless fights against the Tyranids and Orks, the toxician Sandiel was no stranger to the act of using the enemy's number against them. All forms of order and discipline evaporated as soon as he joined the fray. Throwing poisonous canisters at the Tau, Sandiel relished their panic, despair, agony, and eventually dying. Entire units affected by the nerve gas turned upon one another in a mindless craze and trusted comrades ended up gunning each other down remorselessly. Others choke to death in manners as hilarious as they were macabre. And yet a few unlucky ones experienced rapid body mutation until their bodies became so bloated they could not even more, let alone fight. Some Tau managed to fire back, but their pulse rifles were next to useless against the thick carapace covering the Chaos champion that had resisted even Tyranid bio-plasma. Sandiel thanked his patron for the blessings; Grandpa Nurgle always provided what was best for his children.

The Broadside stabilised and readied to fire. Before it could, a red beam pierced through its thick armour and pulverised the pilot inside. With a deep sigh, Sonia, Sorceress of Tzeentch and a high ranking member of the Endless Eyes Conclave, descended from the driver compartment and joined her allies. This was NOT according to plan. After all the scheming and plotting she had committed to, those three imbecile just ruined everything. She hoped it would work out fine in the end.

"What were you all doing in there?" asked Sonia furiously as soon as the area was secured. "I thought I told you to stay quiet."

"It's hard to do so when you are in a truck and the temperature is negative 20 degrees Celsius," said Manet. "Look at this. My hair is all ruined, thanks to you."

"Blood is meant to be spilt on the battlefield, not frozen and iced in confined space," said Golac. "It's been a week since I last murder anyone. I cannot bear that any longer."

"You all could have stayed put a little longer," said Sonia, losing patient. "After we get through the checkpoint, you could have your fresh air."

"Shut up, filthy witch" Golac barked back. "Your presence is enough to disgust me. Don't tell me I have to tolerate your big mouth as well."

"Nobody likes a psyker," Manet giggled. "Much less a bossy one."

"Guys, cut it out," Sandiel chimed in. "We have all agreed to set aside our differences for the sake of the mission, right? There is no reason to grieve over something that we cannot change. It is a good thing we have not alarmed the entire garrison yet."

"Really?" Sonia nearly burst into a fit as she said the word. "Then, how do you explain that?" She pointed at the lone Tau battlesuit flying at their direction. As they prepared to repel, a voice crackled in the vox Sonia was carrying.

"Hold your fire," said the Tau. "I am Shas'el Co'ran, and I am your allies."

"He is one of us," said Sonia. The others lowered their weapons accordingly. For this mission, the four Chaos champions would join force with a group of Tau assassins tasked with the elimination of one of their own Ethereals. Though working with aliens made none of them comfortable, the fact the Imperium would gain such an advantage in the current war that their homeworlds would all be in jeopardy should the negotiation ended in success called for this strange alliance. To counter a common threat, two enemies must work together.

"Looks like the welcoming party has finally arrived," said Manet. "About time, too. I wonder if they have any hair gel."

The Tau landed in front of them, his visors surveying the carnage. "You should have waited a little longer. Then, I would have been able to allow you through without the need for violence."

"You should have come here a little sooner," replied Sonia. "Then, we would not have to resort to violence to push our way through. Don't tell me you care so much for these men. Compared to what is about to unfold, this is but a drop in the ocean."

"All lives are precious," said Co'ran. "Even if Ethereal Rai'tara cannot be allowed to live, I would rather as many of the people he had deluded be given a second chance once this is over."

"Aircraft," said Manet with an alarming tone. The sky was pitch black, but the Slaaneshii's eyes were unnaturally keen. If a needle were in a haystack, she would find it. "That's a Barracuda. Shit. Do you think it has spotted us?"

"No need to worry," said Co'ran. "That is Kor'vre E'tan providing air cover for us. He will be sending fake imageries back to high command to prevent anyone from discovering what has taken place here. Additionally, Por'ui Gos'mo had cut off all communication from this base at the time your patience was lost. Rest assured, the mission has not been compromised."

"I was told there were four of you," said Sonia. "Just like there are four of us. Where is the last one?"

"Our last comrade's identity is hidden from us, for his task is the most dangerous of all," Co'ran explained. "He is very close to our target as we speak, waiting for the right moment to strike. Our time is short. Let us get a move on and head to the city. I have reserved shelter for you."

"Right," said Sandiel. "We should follow him from now on."

"I hope they have something warm to eat," said Golac. "I am starving here, staying in that forsaken truck all day."

"Some hair gel would be nice, too," added Manet.

Author's note: This is another one of my side projects and the first sequel ever. I don't know what is up with Warhammer 40k and the Tau Ethereals dying every time. Seriously, almost all of the Tau's defeats end with the death of the Ethereal and not the commander. Most recently, Aun'Va, the Tau Emperor - I mean Supreme Ethereal - is confirmed dead. So here you have it, a story about an Ethereal being protected.

This story is inspired by Gaunt's Ghost Sabbat Martyr where the regiment faces off against nine assassins sent by Enok Innokenti to eliminate Saint Sabbat's incarnation. Another source of my inspiration is Akame ga Kill. I am so disappointed in the anime there is no all-out fight between the Night Raid and Jaegers. Instead, the Jaegers are just picked off one by one. That will not happen here. There will be only one engagement, and only one side will make it out with their lives.

I know the characters may be a bit confusing, so you can use this chart as a reference. The introduction to the Imperial characters is in my previous story, 5 Guardsmen and an Ogryn. I have updated the old story to remove mistakes and improve the flow.


Valia - Cadian Shock Troop.

Randy - Catachan Jungle Fighter.

R40592 (aka Alastor) - Death Korp of Krieg Heavy Weapon Operator.

Mkeller - Tanith Sniper.

Bragg Gutsman - Savla Chem Dog Ogryn.

Agatha - Inquisitorial Ordo Hereticus Sanctioned Psyker.


Golac - Beserker of Khorne.

Manet - Sniper of Slaanesh.

Sandiel - Toxician of Nurgle.

Sonia - Sorcerer of Tzeentch.

Co'ran - Fire Caste Commander.

E'tan - Air Caste Pilot.

Gos'mo - Earth Caste Sapper.

Unknown Water Caste assassin.