It was supposed to be a good day...
A loud yell came from the court yard, bringing the Law bringer back to reality, rubbing his head to ease the headache, he habitually put on his armor before setting off, helmet in hand.
The voice was a rough and ragged male voice, clearly different from the way Cross was used to, rather than a shout that came from the stomach, it felt like the man was tearing his own vocal chords apart yelling him name.
Damn it, and it was supposed to be a good day.
Pole axe held in hand in case the man assaulted him, he sees two former enemies standing together, giving him a dark glare. Most of the Viking guards were there, but only four of the Samurai guards watched him, with no Ayu in sight.
"... How may I be of service?" He asks warily. Stigandr marches up to the man, sword and shield in hand and grabbed him.
"How you can be of service!?" The Viking roars, "How about telling us why you sent assassins to kill us!? Had it not been for my bodyguards, I would not be alive today!"
Assassins? Cross wondered what he was talking about, he had done no such thing.
He takes a second look at the Stigandr, face paling rapidly as he sees bruises and dent on the Warlord's armor. Stigandr had a scab where Cross could tell a flail had struck him on his left cheek.
Good lord, it was supposed to be a good day.
"Look, that's counterproductive to my agenda, I'm here to make peace and amends, not to kill you-"
"Hah! A likely tale, perhaps your memory would be refreshed when you see this!" Stigandr roads, gesturing for his bodyguards to come forward.
One of them was holding a shield, a shield the Law bringer knew too well.
The Yellow and Green pattern of the Iron Legion was painted on the front, and Cross knew he had not given them such a thing the day before.
"Look, whoever did it was not under my orders at the time." He tried to explain. "I'm an honorable man, Stigandr. I keep my promises."
"I'm inclined to agree." The Nobushi softly joined in, "The Emperor's Champion spoke highly of you when she reported to Ayu of Apollyon's death. She seemed to understand The Warden after a duel between them, and I trusted her to make the right call."
Cross moved to nod his head, only to freeze as her blade stopped at his neck.
"But what I experienced here is different from what she had told me, and it's making me question her judgement. Ayu herself was attacked by an assassin herself and is recuperating from her wounds."
It was supposed to be a good day. Cross sighed.
"Tell me, how would you answer for it?"
"I was getting to that." The Law bringer grumbles, grabbing the blade with his metal gauntlets and pushing it aside.
"I did not order those assassinations. Whoever did it knows you're here and is trying to take advantage of my hospitality." He looks around, noting that some of his knights were listening in on the conversation.
"It's no longer safe here, I'll take you back to the borders. The offer still stands, we can work something out to stop further bloodshed. Stigandr, ma'am, accompany me to Ayu's lodging,"
The two of them glanced at each other as Cross walked away from them. They were both thinking the same thing.
Neither of them would survive if they don't work together when the Knights attack. Outnumbered thousand to one, Ayu and Stigandr had to compromise if Cross was not keeping his promise.
A tense silent greeted Cross as he stood before the resting Ayu, the samurai guards holding their weapons in tense anticipation of betrayal. One wrong move, and Cross would never leave the citadel alive.
"Ayu." He greets the woman, getting her attention. Her head slowly turns over to face him, dark brown orbs meeting his blue one.
"I... heard about what happened." He started slowly, "My... apologies for failing to defend you in your time of need. I am ashamed in my failure"
"As you should be." The Empress huffed, rolling her eyes, "Failing to defend your guest as a host? That would be a disgrace worthy of seppuku."
"... I'm glad I don't serve under you." Cross smiled, "I would hate to see good men die for a single mistake."
"Hmph, be glad that I don't operate under such an horrible regime either. I'd have to execute myself twice." Ayu mutters.
Silence hit the room, before a soft chuckle came from one of the samurai. Soon another joins him, and another. Before long, the room was filled with laughter from the samurai. Cross opts to remain silent, waiting for the Samurai to finish their little joke.
"Sorry, it's been a long time since I had a good joke." Ayu eventually spoke after calming herself down. "So, Cross-san, here to apologize for trying to kill the leader of the samurai."
Cross remained silent for a moment, silently debating how to explain the situation to her.
"For one, I did not order the attack on you, Lady Ayu." He starts slowly, "I have yet to find out who ordered it, that means it is not safe to be here anyone."
"How will I trust you?"
"I am here, alone. You may avenge yourself right here, right now. If you so desire."
Another silence broke through the conversation, as Ayu surveyed the room. He was right, he was the only knight surrounded by the samurai. After a while, she nods her head.
"Alright, I will trust you. For now." She relented, slowly getting up from the bed she was resting at. "If it is not longer safe here, I will take my guards and head back. Perhaps we may discuss terms at a future date?"
"Yes, let us meet at the gate in an hours time, I will come along with a force to escort you should they try to attack us again."
"Agreed, an hour it is then."
An hour later, Cross and his men met the Japanese empress and the Norse Jarl, his helmet in place and his halberd held at ready.
"There's no knowing when those assassin's will strike." Cross told them, glancing about. "I will go with you back to the borders. Remember to discuss the truce with your advisors.
With that said, he moved off, leading the vanguard of guards. Ayu's samurais and Stigandr's vikings was at the center, flanked on all sides by Cross' Knights. The journey was not long, and they quickly reached the borders.
"Have a good day, Lady Ayu, Lord Stigandr." He calls as the two leaders crossed the borders back to their homelands. Cross let himself give a small smile, nothing had happened during the journey back to the borders. Hopefully that misunderstanding was the only thing that had gone wrong.
Heading back to the citadel, a scout returns from her journey, a concerned tone voices out.
"Milord, the citadel has grown silent, there are no guards patrolling the area."
Cross frowns at the report, it has been barely two hours since he left the citadel. A bad feeling went up to his gut.
"Prepare the men, I will find out what happened to the fortress."
Walking out into the main gate, he spots fallen flags of the Iron Legion scattered about, some burnt, others shredding. His mind whirls at the thought of those desecration.
We are in enemy territory now, he mused as he called out.
"Soldiers of the Citadel! I order you to open the gate!"
Silence settled between Cross and the fortress, not one movement heard by the Law bringer. He calls out again.
"Did you not hear me? Open the gates!"
Eerie silence greeted the man in return, sending chills down his spine. Then, a slow whistling sound reached his ears.
The whistling grows louder, as the man peers around his surroundings to locate the source of the whistling. Turning his eyes back onto The Citadel, narrowing his eyes as an orange banner flew up from the walls.
A familiar black and orange flag.
"Shit!" Instinct kicking, he threw himself aside as a flaming catapult lands mere meters from where he stood. Scrambling from the ground, Cross groans as a war horn sound, sending more of the Blackstone flags up from the walls.
"God, damn it."
There's no way he can take the fortress alone.
He needed to find help.
The Lord Warden was somewhere in the north, trying to unite the other legions back into the Iron Legion. Mercy had disappeared from their little group ever since Apollyon was killed.
He needed to get to Stone.
He runs back into the forest, drawing attention from the soldiers who followed him.
"Men, we're retreating. The Blackstones have taken over The Citadel. Form up! We're marching to Harrowgate!" He orders them. The soldiers do not hesitate, quickly forming ranks and slowly retreating from The Citadel.
Damn it, Cross thought. It was supposed to be a good day.