I have no idea where, how or why this came to be. No idea at all. It must be the late night browsing for something to read or whatever but probably because I saw a Bloodborne/Kuroinu crossover that I could barely read and I, who is not sleeping properly at this time, was like: "Hey this looks...salvageable."
Anyhow the only thing I know about Kuroinu is that it's an OAV of a rather popular H-series. There's a bunch of bad shit going down because a large group of mercenaries want to make a Sex Slave Empire for themselves...Oh, and the girls are all half naked all the time.
And then I figured, what would happen if you sent a barely sane, murderous former human who wants to hide his true self into the damn mix?
Note: Inspired by Omegas Prime's fic 'The Irregular', The Rebellion challenge by Wimblegurk Brigade, and staying up till 0200 in the morning.
The Night Unfurls
The Good Hunter
"We are born of the blood, made men by the blood. Undone by the blood."
The Orc's head flew across the cave and rolled to a stop, facing the sky with a blank expression. It had once belonged to an almost seven foot tall brute, one that had toyed with and killed several young women before its rampage had been stopped. Its killer calmly stepped forward to retrieve the head, regarding it with a critical eye before letting it fall to the floor.
The Hunter gazed out of the cave and at the literal trail of corpses he had left getting to this point. It wasn't very far from the abandoned farm where he was currently staying. That was how it worked for him ever since he left Yharnam behind and decided to try finding his worth in the waking world. That task was getting harder than he thought.
Especially in a war torn kingdom such as Eostia. He had been here for a few months and knew an inkling about the war between the Goddess Reborn, Celestine Lucross and the High Queen of the Dark Elves Olga Discordia. He had good luck so far avoiding any major battlefields, and he could earn a somewhat reasonable amount of coin putting down roving packs of green skins and bandits.
The Hunter calmly exited from the cave. He was garbed in nondescript clothing, all covered by a long dark grey coat. His features were hidden by a tattered tricorne hat and a cloth mask. The Hunter's Attire was particularly tough and served as well balanced protection, not even hindering his movement.
His weapon was a demented fusion between a saw and a cleaver. He swung it down and folded it up before clipping it to a harness on his back. It was a terrifyingly effective weapon against the beast plague back in Yharnam. The Hunter had used it against the myriad monsters in Eostia and found that it was just as effective, and deadly, here.
In the few months he had been here, he had mostly wandered in the southern regions steering well clear of the northern borders. The Hunter took small jobs to earn a living, most often killing off wandering bands of orcs and monsters or hunting down bandits. Despite his desire to stay clear of the war, he had made quite a name for himself doing so.
The Hunter hoped that his exploits would not reach the ears of the nobility of this land. Which was why he was staying at this farm.
The abandoned farm was quiet as the Hunter made his way to the old barn that was still intact. He didn't need to worry about supplies, as he could always return to the Dream when needed. As the fire burned merrily the Hunter set his weapon down beside him and stared into the fire. Sleep beckoned and soon, the Hunter's last thoughts was of the Dream...
The Hunter's Dream.
The Hunter found himself looking at the workshop situated on a hill. Here and there, gravestones surrounded the workshop. Down the path and beyond the gate was a hill surrounded by white flowers. The Hunter remembered that hill, it was where he buried his mentor after fighting him for one last time.
He made his way up the path leading to the workshop to find his dearest friend who was kneeling in front of a gravestone. As he got closer, the Hunter heard his friend's voice. She was praying for him, like always. It brought a smile to his face, hidden beneath the cloth mask he wore. Already it seemed like his troubled thoughts were fading away.
"O Flora of the moon, of the dream...O little ones, o fleeting will of the ancients...let the Hunter be safe, let them find comfort. And let this dream, their captor, foretell a pleasant awakening and be one day a fond, distant memory."
The Hunter stopped and let her finish. His friend, stood up from the grave she tended to and turned around. The Plain Doll had been created in the image of a deadly hunter who had passed long ago. She smiled down at the Hunter as he approached. She towered over the Hunter, wearing a dress and bonnet that were made with great care. A small hair ornament was seen placed delicately in her silver hair.
"Welcome home, Good Hunter." She greeted him with a bow that he returned. Her voice soothing and gentle, a smile appeared on her face. "What is it you desire?"
"I was just visiting." The Good Hunter replied, voice muffled by the cloth bandana he wore. "I succeeded in another Hunt...But I'm afraid the location is still very dangerous. I won't be able to bring the workshop out of the Dream."
"Oh?" The Doll tilted her head curiously. "Were you hurt?"
"Nothing I could not handle." The Hunter answered. He offered his arm and the Doll took it. They went around the area on a stroll. The Messengers, inhabitants of the Dream, were everywhere. They were small, grotesque things. Ghastly in appearance but they only wished to serve those Hunters who visited the Dream.
The Good Hunter was at first distrustful of them but gradually, much like his interactions with the Doll, he had grown fond of them. Even now, they greeted their master with ghostly groans and waving various items that they would exchange for blood echoes. They mostly helped the Plain Doll around the garden, or they visited the Hunter when he went on his excursions in Eostia and often delivered his weapons and items when needed.
After their stroll, the Hunter and the Plain Doll stayed in the workshop where the Hunter regaled her with his exploits. It upset him greatly if he did not tell her how he was doing and made sure to do so. The Plain Doll gave no complaints but she did listen. The Hunter did not want her to be lonely.
She knew about the kingdom the Hunter had ended up in and hoped he stayed safe whenever he returned to the Waking World.
"Will you not help her, this...Goddess reincarnated?" The Doll asked the Hunter as he set down his cup of tea.
"And expose her people to the Eldritch Truth I hold?" The Hunter spoke with conviction. "I will not doom people to madness and depravity. They aren't ready for..." He sighed and stopped himself, he was raising his voice. "Forgive me, my friend. I should have not snapped at you like that."
The Doll held his hand in a gentle grip. The Hunter squeezed back. They stayed like that for a while until the Hunter eventually returned to the Waking World.
Eostia, abandoned farm.
The Hunter woke to the unfamiliar sound of chirping birds...and the crack of thunder which nearly sent him jumping out of his skin. He looked up. The storm must have moved in while he was still asleep and had returned from the Dream.
"Great." He muttered as he stood up. "I find one good place to put a house in, and of course it starts raining. Can't get work done if the orcs are too scared to come up out of their nests." And of course, as if to punctuate that he was already displeased with the weather, it started raining.
The Hunter let out a frustrated groan as he took shelter. Looks like it was going to be a slow day today. He couldn't even head into a town to find some work on the bounty boards. Of course, he'd have to deal with the other mercenaries and what not but what else was he going to do? He hated negotiating for pay, especially with other mercenaries. The Hunter looked up at the sky.
Nope. This was going to be quite a torrential rainfall. Looks like he was going to spend a few days indoors. Perhaps he'd do some exercises while he waited for the rain to stop. So he spent the next hour training, swinging his Cleaver at imaginary opponents. The Hunter had no formal instruction, as Gehrman had believed that the best way to hunt beasts was through practical experience on the field of battle.
The First Hunter of the Workshop also had quite the distaste for fair combat. No one, not beast or man, wanted to be stuck in a fair fight. A Hunter must be cunning, focused, swift and cruel. It was a lesson that he imparted on his young student constantly when he returned to the Dream. As he swung his blade to finish off another opponent, his eyes narrowed. Once, he had considered himself a good man. Once, he loved another.
He had lost his brothers and sisters. Now, here he was. An ascended Hunter who had left Yharnam an ocean of blood. Beast. Human. Otherworldly being. It did not matter what or who, he killed and killed and killed until nothing was left. He had turned numb from the constant killing.
The Hunter looked into the distance. It was still raining. He let out a sigh then sat back down in the dirt and tried to start a fire as it was getting cold. This was why he hated idleness. It allowed memories to seep back into his thoughts.
Dangerous...especially with the look of the armed horsemen headed his way. The Hunter stood up, weapon in hand as the horsemen stopped. He noted their cloaks, soaked with rain and the pennant on one's spear. He also saw that they were all female...judging from the perfume he could smell despite the rain.
"Hail, stranger." The one in the lead nodded her head.
"Hail." The Hunter returned their greeting politely but distantly. "Are you and your company knights, good lady?"
"Well, one of us is." One woman in the back joked.
"Oh, hush, you!" The leader snapped though in a good natured way.
"Sorry, we're all just a bit rowdy." The leader removed her hood. The Hunter recognized the red hair and tangerine eyes but could not put a name to the young woman's pretty face. But he knew he had seen her before. "We're looking for someone."
"And that person brings you here to this abandoned farm?"
The young woman grinned. "Well...let's see. First, there's been quite a stir in the surrounding towns about a man with a strange hat going around killing orc and bandits. There's enough dead to fill a castle, as the rumors say." She stated.
The Hunter's eyes narrowed as she continued. "A man with a peculiar hat and weapon...the ones you've got on your person right now, stranger."
"I see." The Hunter spoke quietly, almost way too quiet for anyone to hear. The rose haired woman pouted a bit. "I was hoping to avoid getting attention." He regarded the woman with a critical eye.
"I beg your pardon, but you seem familiar." He said. "I've heard of a mercenary with red hair in a tavern way back in a few months. Heard she was knighted by the Goddess herself."
"Heh, so if I am Maia, Queen of Mercenaries?" The woman laughed. "And if I told you that the Goddess herself asked me to secure a meeting with you? What would you do then stranger?"
The Hunter sighed. Looks like his worst fear has come true.
Ken, Capitol of Eostia, the Grand Chapel.
Celestine Lucross yawned as the meeting adjourned. Her eyes blinked sleepily as she pulled a shawl around her shoulders to ward off the chill. She was still feeling sleepy, having just spent most of the day trying to run her kingdom while keeping the nobles focused on the goal of defeating Olga Discordia.
She sighed as she finally made it to her quarters, wearily eyeing her mirror. The High Elf was beautiful, with long blonde hair and pale skin. Wearing a pure white robe that protected her modesty, Celestine closed her vibrant green eyes and prayed for strength. The war had been going on for too long and the people were suffering. She was already seeing the effects here at Ken.
She just hoped her latest venture to finding a strong recruit for the mission she had planned would go without difficulty. Her visions in the past months were strange but intense. All she saw was a man in a great dark coat, wearing a strange hat standing on a hill surrounded by a field of white flowers. It was a surreal, but ultimately soothing picture.
The next moment was the most terrifying sight she had seen in her long years.
Instead of the beautiful white flowers, the man in the dark coat was now standing on a field of dismembered corpses. Orcs, goblins, monsters, even men and women. Their faces were pale, bloodied and filled with a horror that would stay with the Goddess Incarnate for the rest of her life. The man she saw in her vision had changed, for he was no longer standing tall and proud facing the north. He instead faced the south, bloodied and battered but also unbowed. In one hand he held a demented weapon, a terrifying fusion of a giant saw and a cruel cleaver. In the other was a severed head, but male or female Celestine could not tell.
She had screamed as the man turned his eyes on her, those horrifying claret red eyes that saw right through her, reducing her to a terrified wretch. The gaze held her own, as though she was nothing but mere prey to be hunted down for sport.
Celestine shivered as the vision came back briefly, remembering how cold she felt as the stranger reached for her face as if to tear it off with his clawed hand. The High Elf pulled her shawl closer as if to ward off a chill. Whoever this man was, he was either a savior or destroyer. Claudia had been the only one who had been told the full story, but she had sent Maia out to find this strange man, whoever he was.
She knew he was important but did not know how. That was the thing about foresight, you never knew fully what a vision would entail.
But she had no other choice, not if she wanted to end this war.
En route to Ken
Maia watched the stranger curiously. Since she had told him that Celestine had business with him, the man had been completely silent. Ordinarily when the ruler of the land asked to speak with someone, they'd usually be either nervous or enthralled. They would react. The stranger who only referred to himself as Hunter did not react at all.
She did note several strange things. First, the horses were nervous around him. Some were even frightened and it took some members of her troop quite a while to calm them down, though the difficulty of the task was raised due to the weather. She actually thought it had been the weather but the horse shied from his touch and even now the mount he was borrowing looked ready to buck him off its back... there was one problem however. The horse was afraid to act on its instinct.
Secondly, he didn't speak to her or her other mercenaries. He didn't even react like a normal man would to seeing several beautiful women. No, Hunter did not stare or leer. Not even a teeny, tiny look. It was either he swung the other way or he had formidable willpower. Maia didn't think it was either of the two because she was getting some seriously sinister feelings about the man.
Third, it was the stories about him. From what Maia knew, Hunter was responsible for the deaths of several Orc war bands and men of ill repute. Bandits or orcs, it didn't matter how many or who they were. They died all the same. Maia saw the deranged weapon on the stranger's back. She could sense that it was more than a piece of junk.
She disbelieved the stories at first but getting a look at the man, with his dark grey coat and tattered tricorne hat. She could see why most folks were wise not to intimidate him. There was power in that lean frame. He was young, but the emptiness in his dark eyes. It was broken, and whatever it was behind those eyes had not stayed broken. It had forged itself into something terrifying, an utter contempt for all sentient life.
The man was staring ahead, as though he was somewhere else. Maia bet that he had had quite a conversation with someone on the other side. Warriors could face their deaths with some dignity. Some men wept or bargained or pleaded with the reaper. Others had a quiet acceptance and dealt with their impending doom in a calm way.
No, this man. This man knew death as intimately as a lover. Why Lady Celestine wanted him brought before her was not something she wanted to ask.
Maia noted one of her recruits, a young woman by the name of Charlotte, approach the stranger. The group was in formation, the young Hunter staying in the middle. If he ran, he'd have to come up against her best. Something that Maia hoped would not happen. Charlotte was friendly, a bit of a flirt but she had a good heart.
She kept an eye on the interaction. Hunter said nothing, only keeping his eyes straight ahead.
Charlotte moved her horse closer. "It ain't nice to ignore girls you know." She smirked as she reached for his shoulder. "Come on-"
The blonde nearly jumped out of her skin as Hunter regarded her with a blank stare. Charlotte gulped before moving her horse back into position. Maia's smirk died right on her face as the stranger turned his head forward, his horrifyingly blank eyes straight ahead. Charlotte looked at Maia and shook her head pityingly.
That scared her.
It took a few days but they finally reached Ken, capitol of Eostia and home to the Seven Shield Alliance. The Hunter looked around curiously but kept his head on a swivel. Most of the folk inside Ken were whispering or admiring Maia, who was part of the Seven Shield Alliance. The Hunter kept quiet even as the group dismounted.
He followed Maia and her mercenaries as they headed down the street heading towards a large castle. A flash of memory came to him suddenly.
She was still there when he emerged from the Grand Cathedral.
"Don't you listen to your elders?" She asked gruffly, even as she accepted his assistance to sit up.
"I...I killed him." The Hunter told the Crow. "Sorry."
"No matter, you saved my life." She told him sternly. "Bah, I don't think this life is for me anymore." She reached into her coat and produced a badge.
"Here," she shoved it in his hands. "This too is a Hunter's work. But it bears no honor."
"I know." The Hunter told her. "I know. I killed a woman today. She was lost."
The Crow laughed bitterly but briefly. "You made the decision to carry this burden, boy. I can't help you."
"I know." The Hunter said quieter now. "Let me help you this time."
"No, you've got more beasts to kill." The Crow said, then sighed tiredly. "Let me...Let me rest for a little while. I'll be fine...just wait."
The Hunter stayed there until her breathing eventually slowed down. When she had finally passed on, he quietly crossed her arms across her chest. He didn't realize that he had been crying.
His fist clenched and he tried to calm himself down. "Oy, Hunter." He looked up to see Maia smirking at him. "You okay?"
He nodded brusquely. "What's going on?"
Maia nodded to her men and women who left the two of them alone. "I'm supposed to take you to the Goddess." She said. "So if you're done spacing out we can go yeah?" She turned around quickly. "Come on, don't be shy. She doesn't bite, although her guard dog does."
The Hunter exhaled through his nose. It was time. He followed Maia, feeling the reassuring weight of his weapon on his back. The castle was huge and the atmosphere inside solemn. This was the place where decisions were made that would ultimately save people or put them within their graves. He noted the guards standing at attention, guarding what he assumed was the throne room.
"Well...Here we are." Maia stretched. "Let's get this over with."
The Hunter sighed.
Maia marched up to the guards. "Afternoon, gents. You know me, I'm here to see Her Holiness."
"Yes, lady Maia." One said and bowed. "And your...guest?"
The guards regarded the Hunter with some apprehension.
"Yeah, he's coming too."
The High Elf blinked as she turned to her Head Butler. "Lady Celestine? Are you certain you should not be resting?"
Celestine gave a dazzling smile, although the weary look in her vibrant green eyes was cause for concern. "I...I'll be fine, Jamal." She told him quietly. "I'll rest after this." As the butler nodded, Celestine knew Claudia was looking at her with disapproval. The High Elf shook her head. Claudia Levantine was the strongest of her Princess Knights, and her dearest friend. The knight was watching Celestine warily. Of all the others, she was the one most concerned with her visions and the toll they took on her.
The doors creaked open and two guards walked in, escorting the red haired Queen of Mercenaries Maia and...
Celestine felt her breath hitch as the man in the dark coat walked inside the throne room slightly behind Maia. He was just as she envisioned him, the same dark coat, the same tattered, feathered hat. The same dark eyes, the same empty glance.
She realized that the guards were still waiting to be dismissed.
"Thank you." Celestine told the guards after clearing her throat. "You may go."
The guards bowed. Now there were only four in the room. Maia took her place alongside Celestine, taking a seat on the steps leading to the throne. Claudia stepped forward slightly, hand on the hilt of her sword.
The stranger kept very still. Hands at his side. The atmosphere was tense. Celestine recovered first.
"I hear that you have been slaying orcs and bandits left and right throughout the land." She spoke clearly trying to show no hostile intent. There was no reply, at least not for a while.
"So I have." His voice was quiet, Celestine had to strain to hear it. "Is it a crime to hunt down monsters?"
"You will show respect, cur!" Claudia snapped. "You stand before Celestine Lucross-"
"Claudia. I apologize for my subordinate's ire, she is very protective of me." Celestine spoke up before an argument could erupt. She looked down at the stranger in their midst. "As for your question? No. You have done a service to my people and for that I am grateful."
The stranger said nothing, only shrugging his shoulders. It was a humble gesture, as if killing a hundred bandits and orcs were a simple thing.
Celestine smiled. "What brought you here stranger?" She asked him gently.
"Nothing." The stranger replied quietly. "Just travelling the world. Selling my blade to those who pay for it."
"Another mercenary eh?" Maia asked.
"Not by choice." Was the cold answer which made her frown.
"No need to be so gruff about it." Maia said scowling further as the stranger refused to even acknowledge her.
"I do not have a very good opinion of mercenaries. Apologies in advance." The stranger replied. His tone of voice made it clear he was not going to breach the subject or tolerate questions. He steadied himself before looking up at Celestine on her throne.
"What do you want from me?" He asked quietly. "If I am not here to be judged for a crime, then this is something else."
Celestine held out her hand before Claudia started shouting. "I apologize. Yes, I brought you here for a reason." She told the stranger. "But first, I must ask that you tell us your name."
"I go by Hunter." The stranger answered.
"You don't have a name?" Maia piped up.
"My name is not important to me." Hunter answered once more before turning his attention to Celestine. "What is your request, your grace?"
The Goddess Reborn blinked as Hunter looked at her expectantly.
"Very well, I will be sending the Black Dogs to attack the Dark Fortress." Celestine explained. "You shall go with them. Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to bring Olga Discordia to me."
Hunter lowered his head slightly as he digested that information. The Black Dogs were a famous mercenary group, led by the legendary Vault himself. A charismatic man and a powerful swordsman, Hunter had heard tales of their exploits. He had also heard of Olga Discordia, the High Queen of the Dark Elves herself. Her arcane strength was said to rival Celestine's own.
More than half of their legends spoke of the terrible battles between them. Here he was talking to Celestine but Olga Discordia was a different story. He had only heard tales about the Dark Elf queen, nobody knew exactly what she looked like but there were books on the subject.
"...A difficult task." Hunter admitted. "Why me?"
"I am sorry?" Celestine tilted her head in confusion.
"Why ask a stranger, a foreigner from a distant land to capture one of the most notorious sorceresses in Eostia?" Hunter asked.
Celestine looked down in shame. "Truth be told, I...had a premonition about you." She told him. "One where you could either be the savior of my land or its destroyer."
Hunter exhaled as Maia and Claudia turned to regard Celestine with outright shocked looks. But the Goddess Reborn just looked at Hunter with a weary gaze, to her left Claudia had never seen her highness look so tired.
"What I saw frightened me beyond measure." Celestine told the young stranger standing in her throne room. "A brutal killer standing in a field of corpses as far as the eye can see. But you were strong, unbowed and unbroken. My people suffer because of this war, Sir Hunter. I ask-no, I beg of you, Hunter. Help me bring peace to this land and I will be forever in your debt."
There was silence. Hunter stayed very still, he was so quiet that it was maddening to watch him just stand there.
After a long pause, Hunter spoke at last his tone resigned.
"Very well, I accept your request."
Celestine felt a burden lift from her shoulders as the atmosphere lightened. Claudia still had a scowl on her face but she looked relieved to see that Celestine had brightened considerably. Maia was actually grinning.
"I thank you, Sir Hunter." Celestine said.
"It will be difficult." Hunter told her. "But I will do my utmost to secure Olga Discordia and bring her to you. No matter the cost."
Celestine nodded. "I only hope that you will return safely and successfully, Hunter. Too many have died in this war and I would not wish to add another to my conscious."
Hunter nodded. "If that is all, I wish to prepare for the task at hand." He said.
"You can stay at this castle if you wish, it is getting late. We will discuss more when Master Vault and his band arrive in a day. I will have servants prepare a room for you."
Hunter didn't speak but he did bow formally before heading out. Celestine leaned back into her throne with a sigh. So many things could have gone wrong but she had secured a way to peace.
She opened her eyes to see Maia and Claudia watching expectantly. She smiled at her two subordinates. "Please, walk with me."
As the three princess knights headed out of the throne room the silence became awkward as each waited for someone to speak.
"Well, Lady Celestine. You certainly have a way of surprising everyone." Maia commented with a grin. "Never thought that you'd have a vision about some stranger who's as murderous as they come."
"Indeed, I must object to his presence here." Claudia spoke officiously. "That man...he's dangerous."
"On that I agree, Lady Celestine." Maia said. "The man's not right in the head."
Celestine bit her bottom lip. "You've been with him on the way here, Maia. What can you tell us?"
Maia's cheerful grin disappeared entirely. She looked at Celestine and Claudia seriously. "You have seen his eyes right? Vault and I have shed our own fair share of blood and we know how to deal with it."
She looked ahead. "I've seen men like Hunter before. They seem listless, even afraid of their own shadows but you shouldn't underestimate him." She said. "He's no soldier, he's a killer with talent. Bandits? Orcs? It won't matter who you put him up against, he'll kill them stone cold dead."
"An assassin?" Claudia asked.
"No. Not even that. He's...broken." Maia told Claudia gravely. "But he didn't stay broken. He's stopped caring."
Claudia looked grim but she understood. Celestine looked horrified and sad that a young man had ended up this way.
"Stopped caring about what?" Celestine asked, almost in a whisper. Maia looked at her seriously.
"Stopped caring about the welfare of the guy on the other side of his blade. He won't relent. He won't apologize. He'll bleed his enemy dry, no matter the cost." The mercenary told Celestine. "Which is why you have to watch him closely. Because who knows what you have unleashed on Eostia, milady."
For many it would be the time for sleep, a time to let the world's burdens slip away for a time until morning came. For the Good Hunter, it brought nothing but memories. Memories that would drive lesser men insane and bring them to utter despair.
He sat down at a small table in his quarters, instructing the servant not to disturb him unless needed. His Saw Cleaver was unfolded, the blade being sharpened. A lone candle was the only source of light within the dark room, the sound of steel being sharpened the only sound. The Good Hunter was preparing for his duty to Celestine Lucross.
Honestly, he was not expecting such a request. Hunter was more than capable of ending lives. He was not very good at preserving them however. The ring of steel stopped as Hunter finished sharpening his cleaver and pointed it at the wall. He then swung it to the side to fold it back into Saw form and set it on the table where it gleamed dully in the moonlight.
He had other weapons but most of them would remain in the Dream for now. Although, he had asked his Messengers to bring one particular weapon to his side. That weapon was the Holy Moonlight Sword.
It was currently wrapped in bandages, leaning against the wall next to the bed.
"Ah, you were at my side all along...My true mentor...My guiding Moonlight."
The sword had once belonged to Ludwig, the First Hunter of the Healing Church. The Accursed one who had turned into the most horrid beast. The Good Hunter had slain him in the Nightmare, giving the once great hunter peace before he died. As it was, the Good Hunter wielded the blade with the same surety Ludwig once did.
It was an arcane weapon, filled with a strange magic the Holy Moonlight Sword channeled the abyssal cosmos. It would glow with an ethereal light. Legends say that it would guide the warrior who wielded it. It had guided Ludwig before his untimely descent to madness. Hunter just hoped that it would guide him to better fortune than Ludwig.
The Good Hunter took up the blade, letting the wrappings fall off the majestic weapon. The greatsword shone an eerie blue, impatiently, as though it hungered for battle once more. He eyed it silently. There would be a battle to come.
He just hoped nothing terrible would happen.
The next morning...
The Black Dogs arrived in Ken.
There were more than a few hundred. The uniforms consisted of light leather armor, a green vest with the badge of a black dog emblazoned on the chest, and brown pants and boots. The Hunter was reminded of brigands and bandits before he leaned on the hilt of the Holy Moonlight Sword, already bandaged for the journey.
When Celestine asked about the heritage of the weapon, the Good Hunter merely said that he had bought it in town. Neither she, nor Maia or Claudia believed him and instead kept a curious eye on the blade. The Good Hunter stood at Celestine's left while Maia and Claudia Levantine were on the right. Maia gave Hunter a wink, one that he did not return. Claudia kept her eyes straight as Celestine did the same.
The Black Dogs mercenary group came to a halt before the castle. The leader, a man in hard leather and plate, got off of his horse and bowed his head in respect to Celestine. The Good Hunter watched him warily. He had dark skin, a multitude of scars and the look of a veteran. The hilt of a greatsword poked over his shoulder. When the man faced Celestine, Hunter saw countless ambitions in the man's eyes.
Hunter knew that this man, Vault, would bear watching.
"Lady Celestine." Vault's voice was charismatic and deep. A voice that belonged to a man who was used to giving orders. "And Maia, so good to see you."
Maia winked, although Hunter could see a longing in her eyes that spoke more than just mere affection.
"Master Vault. I hear you were particularly successful in repulsing our enemy from our borders." Celestine said.
"Aye," Vault answered grinning. "We broke that horde up and sent them running back north with their tails between their legs."
"Yes, it was a decisive blow." Celestine said. "From what your messenger has told me, we will not be getting any other opportunities like this."
The Goddess had a serious look on her face. "I am asking you to assault the Black Fortress."
Vault blinked. "Oh."
"Yes. It is high time we ended this war, too much blood has been spilled for it to continue." Celestine said. "For this, I also wish for Olga Discordia to be brought to me alive." She gestured for Hunter to step forward. "This is Hunter."
He nodded to Vault. The mercenary leader grinned. "Heh, I've heard of you stranger." He told Hunter. "Stories say you killed the Defiler, Ozgriz the Mighty and the Arsonist in one night. That's one hell of a list."
"Those orcs had names?" Hunter asked.
Vault laughed. "So this is a new recruit?" He asked Celestine. "I like him already."
"I believe he will be able to help you." Celestine said gracefully. "I would like to make sure you succeed in capturing Olga unharmed so we can end the war peacefully."
"Hit the Black Fortress, nab Olga. Got it." Vault grinned. "All in a day's work for the Black Dogs." The man turned to look at Hunter. "Oy, Hunter. Normally there'd be a formal induction but let me welcome you to our group."
He offered his hand for a shake. Hunter gripped it.
"I thank you for the welcome." Hunter said. "May our endeavors be successful."
It was time to end the war. But one should take heed not to approach things such as these lightly.
For who knows? Wars do not end cleanly after all.