Max, Angela and Sasha rode inside a dingy and dirty cart, both blindfolded and cuffed with metal shackles on their hands. The raptor queen attempted to break free from her bindings but it proved mostly futile while the blue flower could only turn her head from left to right, paying attention to every sound she heard.

Eventually, what little light came through the blindfold became stronger as the sound of wooden doors slammed open.

"Come on! Off the cart, now!" Ordered a voice.

A man dressed in leather roman clothes walked into the cart and forcibly pulled both Sasha and Angela out.

"Get your hands off of me, asshole!" Snarled Sasha.

"Please, stop! Don't do this!" Cried out Angela.

The man then diverted his attention over to Max and approached him, then kicked him on the leg.

"I said off the cart, you prick!" he roared "Come on, I ain't got all day!"

The young man, who until now seemed to have been asleep, regained consciousness as the man pulled him up on his feet and pushed him out of the cart. After a little jump his feet touched what felt like solid rock. The pungent smell of blood lingered in the air and the cries and muttering of multiple individuals made it clear the three of them weren't the only ones captured.

After a few moments their blindfolds were finally removed, allowing the trio to look at their surroundings. Just as Max suspected, it was a room mostly made of stone and wood. Stains of blood littered the ground and racks displaying both weapons and armors were spread accross the walls. Another thing the trio noticed was that they were lined up alongside a few other people, many of which were displaying different emotions ranging from panic to fear to despair to even stillness.

One by one, they were all carefully observed from head to toe by the warden who also had the role of designating them. The stronger and fiercer ones were designated to the arena while those who already lost their nerve or weren't physically imposing enough were instead assigned to the dealer and dragged away.

By the time the trio's turn arrived, the first one to get looked at was Sasha. The moment the warden tried to touch her face she nearly bit one of his fingers off.

"Touch me again and I'll bite your dick off!"

"Feisty bitch, this one" He replied with a smug tone "Let's see if you can keep that attitude in the arena"

After designating her the warden moved over to Angela, who attempted to avoid eye contact with him until he forced her to look into his eyes by grabbing her face. After taking a careful look at her from head to toe he made a smirk.

"Well, aren't you quite the cutie?" He said "Say...You a virgin?"

"Wha-What?" Asked back Angela

"I asked if you were a virgin, you daft bitch!" Snarled the warden while tightening his grip "Answer or I'll rip off that skirt and check it out myself!"

The blue flower could feel the pressure on her cheeks but was unable to reel back as he simply pulled her forward again, eventually the pressure began to hurt enough for her to answer the question.

"I am! I am a virgin!" She cried out with teary eyes. "I swear I am!"

"We'll see if you're saying the truth" Said the man "You're going straight to the dealer. Bet he'll make quite a show of you in the auction"

"A-Auction!? What do you mean by auction!?"

Without paying any attention to her questions the warden was quick to look at a couple of guards and gestured at them to come over. One of them a man and the other a woman

"You two, take this one to the slave trader. Tell him we got him a virgin, but to check just in case" He said before pointing at them "And no messing around, you hear!? He's gonna want the goods to stay clean!"

Both guards nodded to the warden's orders and grabbed Angela by one arm each before dragging her away, much to the panic of the blue flower who kept crying out and struggling. Steadily her voice grew fainter by the second until it was mostly muffled by all the sounds of the room.

After she was gone the warden then diverted his attention to Max, the last one left in the line. He looked at him from head to toe before making eye contact for a few minutes. A confident smirk forming in his face after a moment or two.

"This one's got plenty of fight left in him" He said with a scoff.

The warden gestured at another group of guards to come over and to force the remaining captives to line up and get against a wall. Once they were all in order he began walking from left to right, eyeing each and every one of them as he explained the rules of the arena to them.

"I'm only gonna explain this once so shut up and listen up!" He said with a stern voice "The rules of the arena are simple. You go out there and you fight to the death! If you win, you get to see another day! Win enough times and you'll get a chance to get a Manumission which, in case you dumb bastards don't know, means earning your freedom!"

"We...We can earn our freedom?" Asked one of the captives.

In a split second the warden approached the one that asked a question and punched him in the gut, causing him to bend down and fall to the floor.

"That's right!" He said "Here in the legion, nothing's for free! Everything has to be earned, even the right to live!"

All the captives looked at the one bent down for a moment as he was pulled back to his feet and pushed against the wall by some guards while the warden continued his explanation.

"There's weapons and armor here for you to use. You're free to pick anything within this room" He said "Gear up and get ready. You're going out there in twenty minutes"

Most met this sudden revelation with surprise or shock, with some even looking at each other in a vain attempt at getting some form of confirmation.

"What? Did you think you'd get a free pass just cause it's your first day here?" He asked "Now come on! Stop fucking around and gear up!"

Urged by his orders the captives quickly spread around the room to look for weapons and armors to use. Some panickly picking up the first thing they could get their hands on while others looked around more carefully at the weapons and armors they'd pick, as some of them diplayed nicks, tears and even rust in some cases.

Sasha decided to go for a leather armor and a pike along with a metal shield while Max chose to pick up a pike and a sword while dressing up with leather pants, a chitin chestplate and cloth to wrap around his forearms and hands.

As he wrapped the cloth, the young man eyed one of the guards lingering close to the man in leather. More specifically at the bone dagger on his belt, which was taken from him back when he got captured.

He considered trying to try and get it back with some pickpocketing but he was granted no time for it as the warden inmediately began shouting orders at the captives once more.

"Get to the gate! It's showtime!" He said while leading all the captives to the gate.

In stark contrast with the oscillating light of the torches from the gladiator chambers, one could see steady beams of sunlight coming from the holes of the barred metal gate, which was decorated with spikes, rust and bloodstains. The sounds of dozens, if not hundreds, of voices cheering from outside along with sounds od banging and metal chains.

"Ah, right. I almost forgot" Added the warden "Imperator Alazar and his four Lieutenants will be watching, so you better put up a good show!"

All the captives looked at him as he continued to taunt them with a mocking tone.

"Who knows? If you do well enough you might even earn the favour of one of them!" He said before breaking into laughter "That is, if you can keep your guts from hitting the floor for long enough!"

The man continued to laugh by himself as he walked away, leaving the captives to instead look at the ominous barred gate. Eventually the sound of turning gears echoed in the air, followed by the gate shaking and then slowly rising up.

The group looked at the outside before focusing on Max, who was the first to step forward and out into the open. Sasha took a deep breath and walked out as well before, eventually, all other captives followed them with a mixture of hesitation and reluctance for the most part. One after the other, they left the shadows of the hallway to bask in the sunlight. The crusty sounds of sand under their feet as they walked.

A moment or two passed as everyone's eyes got used to the brightness before being able to clearly look at their surroundings. As expected, it was an arena, and a rather large one given all the room they had. All around them there were hundreds of people, some dressed in cloth or leather while others were wearing armor. Bloodstains could be seen all over the sand and they also spotted a few pillars located around the place.

"Hooooly shit..." Said Sasha while looking around "I've heard rumors about the Legion's arena but I never thought it wasn't on this scale"

As his fellow captives kept scanning their surroundings Mike's vision focused on a rather outstanding feature. Among the rows of benches were the crowd sat, there was a second layer that rose up through tower-like smooth wood structures, most likely meant for VIPs and the like. And among these, one stood out in particular given how it was not only larger and made of marble, but that it also had a more regal design which included silk banners of red and gold. Within this structure he saw five people.

Eventually Sasha diverted her attention to the same tower as him and laid eyes upon the five people sitting down on their respective seats.

"So that's the emperor" Said Sasha "But who are those four?"

Among the five individuals, the one on the far left was a middle-aged man with short grey hair and heavy stubble who wore a roman armor of leather and an olive metal chestplate along with a long red cape wrapped around his shoulders, his Praetorian helmet resting on his lap with one hand placed over it and the other on the arm of his chair. The one next to him was a man that towered over everyone else. Even from far away they could tell just how massive and burly he was, and in a way it reminded Max of Bjorn the nordic warrior. Except that, unlike Bjorn, this man had a shaved head and beard. He also wore a full suit of red and black metal armor with new legion symbols on the shoulder pads and rested one hand on a large two-handed mace.

On the right of the emperor sat the only woman among the quintet. She had long, natural black curly hair and caramel-colored skin along with eyes green as an emerald. Her outfit, unlike that of her fellow generals, consisted of a short cape that reached down to the middle of her biceps and a heels-long skirt with a slit that reached up to her hips, both of them displaying the same mixture of red with golden accents as her fellow Lieutenants. Underneath these she wore what looked like a leather corset with multiple belts and very long gloves and boots, with stockings covering her otherwise exposed thighs. A rather long whip resting on her left hip.

And lastly, on the far right, sat a man wearing a long black coat with leather gloves and boots, the symbol of the legion on the back of his short cape. But what truly made him stand out from the others was, without a doubt, the eeire mask he wore which mostly resembled that of a plague doctor from the middle ages. The rest of his head being hidden both by a short top hat and a layer of cloth.

All four of these unusual-looking individuals sat the emperor of the legion himself. Unlike what would be expected of one with such a regal tittle, the emperor wore an olive metal chestplate with the symbol of the legion on it and metal bracers along with a long cape of red and gold wrapped around his shoulders and leg guards over leather pants and boots. A golden olive wreath decorated his head, the symbol of his status as ruler of the new legion.

"I heard stories about them" Said one of the captives, a hint of fear in his voice

Both Sasha and Max turned to look at the man, whose eyes were filled with a mixture of shock and fear as he looked at the four lieutenants.

"They are lieutenants and key leading figures in the new Legion, each one having an entire regiment of their own. They are the emperor's most trusted individuals due to their loyalty and ruthlessness, and answer directly to him" Explained the captive "They are known as "the four horsemen of the new legion"."

All the captured fighters looked at the emperor and his four horsement, all now wielding a concern that the raptor queen understood all too well.

"Shit, is that really them?" Asked Sasha.

All of a suden, the sounds of trumpets echoed in the air. The roars of the crowd growing stronger alongside their excitement as an iron door on the other side of the arena slowly rose up, revealing a corridor from which a large group of canines emerged. All of them ressembled Hyenas not only in appearance but also in the way they howled and jeered almost incessantly. Not far behind them followed a Sabertooth being ridden by a man dressed in pelts and animal bones. He brandished a whip that he constantly snapped at the ground to seemingly make the canines move according to his will.

The roars of the crowd only increased further as the man cracked his whip at the canines and pointed at the captives with a battlecry, causing the entire pack to sprint straight at them.

"Here they come!" Cried out Sasha "Get ready!"

With the incoming threat drawing closer the captives brandished their weapons and steeled themselves for battle.

Howls and Jeers turned to roars as the hyenas surrounded and leaped at them from multiple sides and soon turned to whimpers or growls as the captives striked at them and forced them away with their weapons.

Max swung his pike around in an infinite-like pattern to hit and fling away any hyena that leaped at him while also using the sword and kicks of sand to keep those that favored going for his legs from reaching him. And Sasha relied more on stabbing motions while protecting herself with the shield, which she would also use to block any leaping hyena before stabbing at their bellies through the slot.

The other captives were also doing their best at fending off the Hyenas, although some were already struggling against them and began to get overwhelmed by their vast number. Unable to keep up, they fell victim to the vicious onslaught and were torn appart.

"There's too many of them!" Said one of the captives.

Looking at her surroundings, Sasha came to realize they were fighting a losing battle. Everyone was too spread out and out of synch, allowing the Hyenas to easily divide and surround them.

The only way for any of them to survive was if she did the one thing she knew how to do the best, lead.

"All of you! If you want to live then gather up and form a circle!" She shouted with an imposing tone "Hurry!"

The captives initially met this new leadership with surprise but they were all more than willing to follow the promise of survival. Within minutes they all gathered on the same spot and formed a circle. Everyone covering eachother's backs and forming an efficient defense against the unreleting Hyenas. Yet in spite of their efforts there were still many among the pack that were able to attack. Not to mention that as their number decreased, their waryness and coordination increased.

"Hey! What do we do now!?" Asked one of the captives "We won't last much longer like this!"

"I know that!" Snarled Sasha.

As she attempted to come up with a strategy, the raptor queen's eyes focused on the beastmaster and saw how he continued to crack and snap his whip at the pack. She then knew what to do.

"Hey, Dodo bastard" She regarded while looking at Max.

The young man, who was two captives away, turned her eyes at her. Even if he didn't reply, Sasha knew she had his attention.

"I've got a pretty good throwing arm" She said "How about yours?"

Max looked at her gesturing with her head at the beastmaster before realizing what her idea was and holding his pike like a throwing spear.

In quick rush, he fought his way through the hyenas before heading straight for the beastmaster, which reacted to this by cracking his whip and snapping it at him. Max managed to dodge it with a roll before seeing the sabertooth mount pouncing at him.

Pointing the pike forward he crouched and let the sharp end of the pike dig deep into the beasts's neck as it landed , driven deeper and deeper by its own weight as the opposite end hit the floor. Almost inmediately the sabertooth went limp, with the pike turning into the only thing supporting its weight. The sharp fangs inches away from Max's head.

The infuriated beast master dropped his whip and unsheated a sword before pulling it back to stab at Max. The young man using using his own sword to deflect the attack. Once more the beastmaster pulled his weapon back yet this time he was stopped by a pike that stabbed him right in the chest. He looked at it with widened eyes for a moment before dropping his weapon and falling off his now dead mount. His body hitting the floor with a loud thud.

With their master now vanquished, the Hyenas soon became less coordinated. Their attacks also became less and less aggressive until they eventually turned tail and ran away after a few more of their pack were slain. The remaining ones quickly running back into the corridor they entered from.

In view of this the crowd began to cheer once more.

"Di-Did we win? Is it over?" Asked one of the captives holding a shield with both hands.

"We won this one, but keep your guard up"Said Sasha while looking at the spectators "We don't know what they're planning next"

While the young man pulled the dead Sabertooth aside the Raptor queen approached the dead beastmaster to recover her pike. As they did so, the four lieutenants observed them.

The first one to address it being the masked Lieutenant, his voice muffled yet strangely clear, similar to what what one would hear when listening to a commentator on an old tv or radio. The tone jovial as he turned his head to look at the elderly man on the opposite side.

"It seems to me like we have some competent specimens this time around" Said the masked Lieutenant, his voice holding a notable british accent "Wouldn't you think so, good Ronan?"

To this the middle-aged lieutenant responded calmly with one hand caressing his beard thoughtfully.

"I suppose you could say that, Edward" Replied Ronan "The lass seems competent at leading and giving orders"

"What about the boy?" Asked the Edward "Chap seemed to hold himself pretty well on his own. Better than the others did, may I add"

"The boy has skill, looks trained to me" Stated the largest Lieutenant "Bet I could make a decent soldier out of him, maybe a scout. It would be necessary for me to see if he can handle men the same way he handles beasts"

"I'd give that one a second thought, Igor" Interjected Ronan with his arms crossed "It'd be wise to learn more about them before taking any hasty decisions. After all, those with high levels of skill are generally driven by something. It's important to find out whether that something could be useful or play against the legion's interests"

Among all this discussion the female lieutenant leaned forward and looked at the emperor.

"Master Alazar, could I be allowed to take my leave for today?" She asked with a smile "I'd like to go back to the torture chambers to pla-I mean-continue my duties"

"Not enjoying today's match, dear Margaret?" Asked Edward with a tilted head.

When faced with this question the female lieutenant leaned her body forward and rested her elbows on her legs, both hands placed on her cheeks as she looked at the arena with a bored expression.

"I mean, the arena is usually fun but Hyaenodons make it boring. They're way too quick at killing" She explained with frustration "I get the charm about ripping people appart but where's the fun in bloodshed and slaughter if you don't give them the time to scream and feel the suffering?"

The other lieutenants looked at her, initially in silence, before Igor scoffed at her in disdain.

"Foolish girl, still clueless about the true merit of the arena" Said Igor "Then again, what could someone who only knows how to hide behind her puny pets know about the honor of combat?"

This comment was certainly not appreciated by Margaret, who was quick to lean on the side of her chair and frown at him with an unamused glare.

"If you really think my pets are "puny" then how about I let one of them show you their love in the arena?" Asked the female lieutenant with a confident smirk and a crack of her whip "I just so happen to have a bigfoot who is really good at ripping people's heads off"

"Think that one will fare any better than the last one did?" Snarled Igor with a menacing tone and a firm grip on his mace

Both lieutenants fiercely locked eyes and for a moment it seemed as though they'd go at each other's throats before Ronan stepped in to defuse the argument.

"Both of you, cease this senseless quarreling at once!" He ordered with a tone of authority while slamming the arm of his seat "Must I remind you that you're both in the imperator's presence!?"

Almost inmediately upon being reminded of emperor Alazar both of them went quiet and sat facing forward once more. Even so, both of them contiued to throw nasty glare at eachother.

Edward, noticing Alazar's constant silence and the lack of importance he gave to the ongoing discussion, decided to inquire on the thoughts of his emperor.

"What about your highness? What does your higness think in regards to this matter?" He asked with a Jolly tone "Should we offer them a Manumission or should we leave them be for the time being?"

Alazard didn't respond right away. Instead he raised one hand and gestured at one of the guards on the back to approach, which he did with utmost haste.

"Send a message to the warden. Tell him to send two Allosaurus into the arena" He said calmly.

This sudden decision was met with interest by Edward and Igor, sheer excitement by Margaret and reservation by Ronan. All of them looking at him with varying expressions.

"Allosaurus!? For real!?" Asked Margaret with an enthusiastic tone.

"Imperator, are you certain of this?" Questioned Ronan "Excuse my rudeness but this sounds rather excessive for a mere arena combat"

"Ronan...Are you defying my decisions?"

At that moment, a grim tension built up among the lieutenants. A shiver of fright running down their spines as Alazar and Ronan locked eyes in silent for a few moments.

"On no account would I ever do such a thing" Replied Ronan "I merely wish to understand the reasoning behind such a decision"

Another moment of silence went by before Alazar closed his eyes.

"I see...Very well then" Said Alazard "As you know, the trials of this world are delivered to us all equally. And those two have triumphed against one of its greatest trials. They have bested the guardian of the green obelisk"

"The Broodmother!?" Asked Ronan in shock before turning to look over at the duo "So those two are the ones from the report I got this morning?"

"Report?" Asked Margaret with one finger on her chin "I don't recall receiving any report today..."

"You were most likely too distracted with one of your little "projects" to notice the arrival, dear lass" Commented Edward while looking at her "As for me, I did receive a report myself, but mostly glanced through it"

"Cumbersome paperwork, unfitting for warriors" Added Igor "Rarely do I bother with it nowadays. Better to leave tasks like those to pencil pushers"

"Even so, the question now remains" Continued Alazar "How did such a thing come to happen? Was it due to untapped potential, unleashed in a time of need? Sheer luck tipping the scales in their favor? Or was it simply a fluke?"

None of the lieutenants spoke this time, they merely looked at their emperor, whose eyes were now focused once more on the duo. His gaze in particular falling upon the young man and his peculiar fightstyle.

"I intend to find out..."

"I see..." Replied Ronan before facing forward at the arena once more "If that is your wish"

A sudden silence fell among the Lieutenants, with the sole exception being Margaret who began to cheer joyfully, as they looked at each other before focusing once more on the arena. Their gazes falling upon Sasha and Max who were all too aware of them. Although they had yet to figure out whether it was a good or a bad thing.

In this moment of silence, the young man inadvertently ended up locking eyes with the emperor himself. Both of them seemingly trying to analyze each other through their gaze before his focus was shattered by the sound of the arena gates opening once more.

"Figures they won't let us off the hook that easy..." Said Sasha.

The raptor queen was quick to shout out orders to the other captives, who quickly rushed over to her side and got in a defensive formation once more. Max followed suit and took a battle stance as well. All of them widened their eyes in shock as they saw not one but two Allosaurus stepping out into the arena. The large dinosaurs roaring as they looked at their surroundings, sometimes even pushing and seemingly arguing with each other through chomping motions.

Terror and shock spread out among the captives, who would most likely have lost their nerve if it wasn't for Sasha commands. Many of them grumbling and murmuring low curses or prayers as they saw the incoming threat.

"Tw-Two Allosaurus!? Are you kidding!?" Cried out one captive "There's no way we can take on that!"

"Stay calm! We can do this!" Stated Sasha with a firm tone "Keep your weapon steady and at the ready!"

Despite the tone of authority and confidence she put up, the trails of sweat Max could see falling down her face along with the shivering of her hand betrayed a substantial feeling of apprehension.

With the crowd roaring in excitement, a beastmaster outside the arena blew a whistle before pointing at the group. Both predators looked at him before focusing on them once again and then rushing to attack.

"Here they come!" Said Sasha "Spread out!"

Upon shouting her order the whole group rushed sideways to avoid the predators, although one was unlucky enough to get caught by one of them. The sharp saw-like teeth digging into his arm as he was flinged up to the air. Within mere moments both beasts were focused on him. The unlucky soul being torn appart limb by limb, blood flying in all direcctions like a fountain as his horrifying screams echoed all over the arena. The crowd roaring in cheer for what was easily one of the most gruesome spectacles Max had witnessed since his arrival on the island.

"Aaaaahn! That's what I'm talking about right there!" Said Margaret with an expression and tone of pure bliss "This is why I love Allosaurus! Their love is so beautifully sanguinary!"

As most captives watched in shock, Sasha was quick to snap out of it and continue issuing orders.

"Surround them, quickly!" She ordered with one motion of her arm "Those with shields, bang your weapons against them to distract the beasts and force them to split up!"

Although still terrified the men did as she told and formed a large circle around the Allosaurus before those with shields began banging on them. The bloodstained dinosaurs diverted their attention and began alternating between looking at each of them, seemingly confused which one to attack.

As Sasha planed, both predators steadily began to move further and further away from each other until they were basically contained.

"Ranged units! Prepare to fire!" Ordered the Raptor queen "Aim for the eyes! If we can at least partially blind them then we'll stand a much better chance!"

Those with bows began to take aim for the heads of the predators and opened fire, their arrows flying through the air as they headed for their targets. Some missing while others simply struck on the neck or torso, resulting in little damage against the thick scaled hides. A couple of arrows, however, did reach the target, with one managing to hit the left eye of one. The wounded Allosaurus reeling back and shaking its head in response to the pain for a few moments.

While it was partially blinded, the creature's injury made it far more aggressive and less hesitant. Now instead of letting itself be distracted by the shield users it rushed at the bow user and promptly mauled him to death before lashing out at the others. The formation was beginning to crumble down as more and more captives began to get slaughtered by the predators.

"Shit!" Cursed Sasha "Attack it from its blind side! Damage the legs as much as possible! If we can topple it victory will be ours!"

Despite the chaos and disorder of her units the raptor queen continued issuing one order after the other, displaying her leadership skills and ability to maintain command even in the midst of pure chaos. It was through this that she managed to lead the captives in battle.

Using the raptor queen's tactic, the captives attacked the dinosaur's blind side, stabbing and slashing at its leg until it was no longer able to support its owner's weight. With a very loud thud the predator fell down to the ground, and Sasha didn't hesitate to take advantage of this.

"Now's the chance! Attack it's neck and head!" She ordered while dashing.

Together with her unit, they all lounged at the downed Allosaurus and stabbed it in the head and neck. The predator struggled for a few short moments as they relentlessly attacked before it suddenly went limp and ceased to move.

The raptor queen looked at her kill but had no time to dwell on it as her attention was caught by the roar of the remaining Allosaurus. This one had a few arrows stuck on its body but no damage to its vision, as the bow users were all wiped out before they could hit the mark. Regardless, it sported notable damage on its legs but was still more than capable of engaging in battle.

As the predator continued to slaughter one captive after the other, the group began to lose hope. But the young man remained calm and looked at his surroundings, his mind thinking of a plan before spotting one of the pillars and getting an idea. He approached one of the dead captives and took his chitin helmet, which he promptly tossed at the Allosaurus, hitting it right in the nose as it was about to attack one of the captives. The predator turned its angry gaze towards the young man, who stared it down for a moment or two before the Allosaurus ran towards him.

Now with his full attention Max ran twoards the pillar with the Allosaurus chasing after him. Upon reaching the structure he turned around to face the predator with his back pressed against the solid stone. Everyone watched him as quietly stood there, waiting for the incoming attack.

"What is he doing!? Why is he leaning on the pillar like that!?" Questioned one of the confused captives.

"That guy...What is he planning?" Asked Sasha to herself.

As for Max himself, he kept his eyes focused solely on the approaching beast as it drew closer and closer. And right as it lounged to bite at him horizontally he crouched down, dodging the rows of teeth by mere inches as, instead of his flesh, they bit into the solid stone of the pillar. In that split moment Max held his pike with both hands and used it to stab the beast right in the eye. A cry of pain coming from the predator as it reeled back, the pike now lodged into its eye socket and bobbling up and down slightly as it moved.

The Allosaurus shook its head to try and make the pike come off in vain. And while it did this, the young man dashed while holding the sword with both hands before slashing at the leg of the Allosaurus and following it with a spinning slash aimed at the back of the ankle. The blade managed to apply enough damage to the tendon to make the leg lose all strength and subsequently topple the beast down while Max rolled out of the way. As it hit the ground, the Allosaurus twitched a few times before going limp, not even making a sound as it took its last breath.

The entire arena grew silent for a few moments, the crowd taking in the view before roaring into a cheer once more. This time, they cheered for the captives who now stood victorious. Something that even the captives themselves still found difficult to believe.

"Did we win? Did we really do it this time?" Asked one of them while looking around.

"Holy shit" Said Sasha with amazement "That guy is something else"

The raptor queen imagined Max had a plan, but she certainly didn't expect him to be able to take down the predator so swiftly. And she wasn't the only one to be taken aback by this feat either as the Emperor and his Lieutenants focused on him.

"Not bad...Not bad at all" Said Igor with a smirk and a raised eyebrow.

"Well, that was certainly clever" Added Edward.

"Wait a moment, what just happened?"Asked a confused Margaret while alternating between looking at her fellow Lieutenants.

"When the Allosaurus fell down it did so over the pike, and its weight forced it even deeper into its skull" Answered Edward "This most likely caused mortal brain damage, resulting in a near instant death"

"Given the creature's preference for mauling and flinging its victims, he most likely figured it would try to pull the structure off the ground rather than simply let it go right away, hence why he positioned himself in a way that would force it to bite into it" Added Ronan "To think he was able to take all of that into consideration and use it to his advantage...It seems he's no mere brute"

"I see..." Said Margaret before sighing with dissapointment "I wish those two could have lasted a little longer, though...I really wanted to hear some more screaming"

The four Lieutenants chattered each other about the match for a few moments longer before Alazar got up from his seat and approached the balcony, which caught all of their focus right away.

"Imperator?" Asked Ronan.

Upon standing out in the open, the emperor raised one hand to make a gesture of silence. Almost right away the entire arena became completely silent, ensuring even the rattling of a mouse could be heard. The emperor then moved the same hand from before forward and closed it into a fist with the thumb sticking out horizontally. For a moment or two he locked eyes with Max once more before eventually he changed his hand's gesture into a thumbs up.

Once again the crowd began cheering, this time in celebration as Alazar turned his back to the arena and stepped away while Ronan stepped forward to speak up through a speaker.

"The imperator has made his decision! By law of the new legion and decree of the second emperor, Alazar, the prisoners have earned the right of manumission!" He stated loud and clear before looking at the group "Rejoice, warriors, for you are now free citizens of the new legion! Glory to the new Legion! Glory to the emperor! Victory through discipline!"

At that moment all the former captives looked at each other in shock and confusion before changing into joy and relief upon fully realizing they had gained their freedom. Although neither Max nor Sasha could feel very relieved about this as they both felt the trials they would face were far from over yet.


*Scene*


The former captives, now all dressed in cloth, were led through a series of rooms by the prison warden and his guards before being allowed outside the arena and into the streets.

As expected of the Legion's capital city, it was nothing short of impressive. Most buildings were about two to three stories tall and, unlike the Golden Hespis and their mostly varied architecture, it sported a mayor prefference towards Roman architecture and aesthetic in their buildings. Even the floors were mostly paved with solid stone, which saw plenty of use as the streets seemed to be constantly bursting with busy people, most of them either dressed in cloth, legionnaire soldier armor or tunics of different colors and variety. Most of the people seemingly pouring out of the main entrances that led to the colloseum.

"So this is the imperial capital?" Asked one of the captives "It's so big..."

"Impressive, eh?" Said the warden with his arms crossed "And now you lucky bastards get to live here as citizens if you choose to stay"

The group looked at each other with either excitement or hesitation, most of them troubled or uncertain about the idea yet while others were more than eager to begin their new life in the new legion.

"Gotta say, It's been a long time since I've last seen someone earn their freedom on the first fight" Said the warden with one hand on his chin and a pensive look "At least not since that guy showed up..."

Both Max and Sasha turned their heads to look at the warden, who merely seemed to dismiss his own thoughts after a moment or two and whistled. One of the soldiers in the area turned his head their way and quickly walked over after being gestured to do so.

"Show this lot to the Forum, will ya?" Asked the Warden while giving him a scroll "Tell the lads we've got some new citizens who need their ID"

The soldier looked at the scroll for a moment before nodding at the warden and taking it. He then faced the group and began guiding them towards the forum. Before they left, however, the warden caught notice of how Mike stared at him. Or rather, stared at the guard next to him.

"Wha-What is it!?" Questioned the guard tentatively "What are you staring at?"

The guard himself was taller and more buff than Max but it was no suprise he'd be uneasy about the staring given that he watched him take down an Allosaurus just a couple of hours earlier.

While remaining silent the young man walked towards the guard and snatched the dagger, still lodged within its leather scabbard, from his belt and brought it up to face level.

"This is mine..." He said while looking at him in the eye.

Max then turned around and walked back to the group as the guards and warden looked at him with suprise before the one who once held the dagger finally reacted and snarled at him.

"Hey, you bastard! Think I'll let you take my shit from-!" He snarled.

As the guard reached out with one arm Max glared at him over his shoulder. This was more than enough to make the guard break a cold sweat and take a step back.

"Eeeek!?"

The glaring lasted a moment or two longer before the young man turned his head forward again and followed after the group, leaving the trio to look at him as he got further and further away with the others.

Along the way to the forum, a few among the group began asking question to the guard. Most of them being relatively simple question that gave Max some hindsight into the Legion's structure and societal systems.

According to the guard, the capital was named Elysium. Not only was it just as advanced as the Golden Hesperonis but they also even had an economy of their own, except that instead of hespis they used a currency called "Nervans", apparently named in honor of the first leader of the Legion. Another important fact was that the Legion had a strong focus on slavery, which was mostly compromised of individuals who lacked skill in combat but could still serve as artisans, tailors, builders, etc. In other words, the slaves were the working class of the Legion.

As the conversation continued to drag on Mike slowly lost focus on it, causing his mind to wander elsewhere. His first thoughts being in regards to none other than his feathery Dodo companion.

"(I hope Wilson is okay. I didn't see him anywhere when I woke up)" He thought with concern.

As the young man's mind pondered about the well-being of his Dodo he couldn't help but look at the reddish cloth on his hand which covered the cut in his palm. This visage made him think of Alex and wonder if Wilson was currently with him, and eventually about Angela as well. The words of the warden along with the desperate cries of the blue flower echoed in his mind as he walked down the cobblestone street.

"(Auction...Is she going to become a slave then?)"

"Alright, we're here!" Said the guard

Upon hearing the voice of their guide Max snaped out of his train of thought and looked forward. A large open plaza spread out in front of him. The open space surrounded by large buildings while dozens of stalls were lined up along the area, creating a marketplace of sorts where one could both buy and sell goods of all types as well as watch artisans do their craft. In the center of this open area stood a set of stairs which led to a circular fountain. And in the center of this fountain stood a large marble statue of a man dressed in regal clothing and armor along with a crown made out of leaves similar to the one worn by Alazar, his stony gaze set on the horizon as he kept one hand on his hip and the other held a sword like a cane impaled on the ground. Many flowers both singular and in different arrangements laid around his feet, most likely offerings of sorts. A plaque of gold below the statue read the name "Gaius Marcellus Nerva: First Emperor and founder of the New Legion" along with a quote "Victory through Discipline", all of it carved into the plaque.

"Come on now, there'll be time for sightseeing later"

The guard guided everyone through the plaza and into the largest of the surrounding buildings, which seemed to be the central government institution given the row of large pillars in the entrance along with the large stone double doors. The hall lying within its walls had a tall ceiling and was just as busy as the outside.

After making their way to the reception they were greeted by a young woman dressed in a cloth blouse over a white tunic.

"Welcome, can I assist you with something?" She asked politely.

The guard wasted no time in taking the scroll and handing it over to the receptionist, who promptly opened it and silently read the contents.

"Got a new bunch for civ registration" Said the guard while pointing at the group with his thumb "Fresh outta the arena too"

"Oh, well. Congratulations then!" Commented the receptionist while looking at the group "Looks like you're already off to a good start!"

After spreading the scroll on the table and plastering a seal in it with an ink stamp the receptionist got up and walked away into a backroom. At the same time the guard, his job now finished, bid farewell and good luck to the group before leaving. For a short while the group was left all on their own before the receptionist returned. Although she didn't come alone.

Next to her stood a soldier, albeit this one was dressed differently from the guards and soldiers they had spotted so far. He was wearing a metallic black armor with shoulder pads. By the looks of it he was most likely a high ranking officer of sorts, and probably part of a notorious unit given how uneasy the receptionist looked along with the occasional glances of the surrounding bystanders.

The officer eyed the whole group before his gaze focused on Max and Sasha. After a moment or two, he pointed at both of them.

"Both of you, you're coming with me right now" He said firmly.

"Why?" Asked Sasha "Aren't we supposed to register as citizens or something like that?"

"You'll do that later" Replied the officer "Lieutenant Ronan has sent summons for both of you and I don't inted to keep him waiting"

"And what if we refuse?" Asked Max this time.

The officer focused on the young man and took a step closer towards him while glaring at him right in the eye. A clear impatience lingering in his gaze.

"Try" He said with a threatening tone, a hand held firmly on his scabbard

Max and the man locked eyes for a few moments. Both stares intensely clashing before the former closed his eyes and sighed in resignation. In the end Max decided it was best to not cause a ruckus too early on and just follow along for the time being.

"I get it" Said the young man "Lead the way"

He was eyed by the officer for a moment longer before he eventually took a step back and turned the other way.

"Follow me, and don't lag behind" He said.

Left with little choice the duo then followed after the legionnaire, leaving the group behind as they were guided in a completely different direcction to continue the procedure.

Going through the crowd once more, this time attracting a notable number of stares from the bystanders, they went out of the building and into the plaza again. From here they headed for a different, larger building. This one sporting a large staircase spread through the front of the building, followed by a row of larger pillars. Two guards with assault rifles placed on both sides of the double doors that served as the entrance to this impressive structure.

The first thing they saw was a large hall with a staircase on the center, leading up to an open second floor platform that spread both sides. There were no torches at all, instead they saw lamps and lanterns. An armed guard could be seen on both sides of the stair and the vast majority of bystanders were dressed in what looked like officer's uniforms, albeit different from the one that was currently leading them. This made both of them suspect their new guide wasn't part of a regular unit, hence the mixture of respect, fear and attention he seemed to evoke in the people around them.

Without even being given a moment to take in the view the duo was guided up the main staircase and a few side ones leading all the way up to the fourth floor. They then went into a series of long corridors, passing by a few doors and just as many guards armed with assault rifles and metal armors. A view that was quick to nail into Sasha the fact that they were about to meet a figure of high authority within the legion.

Eventually they arrived to a door that, despite not having any particulary unique features, had two heavily armed soldiers guarding it. Unlike all others, however, these were dressed in a similar fashion to the officer that guided them up until now.

Upon drawing closer the officer saluted both guards and proceeded to knock on the door a few times before taking a quick step back and standing straight. After a moment or two the door opened and Ronan the lieutenant walked out, closing the door behind him as he was greeted with a salute from the officer.

"Officer Jerkovsky reporting in, sir. I've brought the subjects you asked for"

Ronan took a quick look at Mike and Sasha before nodding at the officer and approaching them. The duo quietly waiting for him to speak up. As he did, one of the two guards did a full-body check on both of them.

"You're probably wondering why you were brough here" He said during the check-up "Imperator Alazar has deemed you fit for an audience with him, during which he will perform a personal assesment of both of you. This is a remarkable honor, and one that can result in a dreadful punishment if not given the proper respect, so I suggest both you to be in your best behavior"

As he alternated between looking at the young man and the raptor queen, he began explaining the rules of the audience

"After I do the proper announcement, both of you will bow like this" He continued while shortly demonstrating how to bow "You will show him nothing but proper respect, only speak up when told to and always address him by his tittle "Imperator" or "emperor" when doing so"

While Ronan gave them the rules of conduct for their meeting the guard body-checked Max and took his dagger away. The Lieutenant diverted his gaze to the dagger before diverting his focus to the young man.

"Also, I believe this should go without saying but don't attempt anything" He added with a stern tone "Now then...The imperator awaits"

With the check-up now done, Ronan turned his attention back to the door and opened it once more before walking back into the room. Both Max and Sasha followed him into the room, expecting something along the lines of a royal throne room. Yet reality proved to be quite different from imagination as soon realized the place was more fitting to be called an office instead. A rather luxurious one at that, but still not as imposing as a throne room.

Just like the rest of the building it was relatively big but not to an unreasonable degree. The floor and walls were made of smooth white and black marble, the former sporting square patterns while the latter were decorated with red paint and a black baseline. In the back stood a wide and large open door which led to a balcony and two windows on the side decorated with silky curtains, this trio granting plenty of natural light to the otherwise dimly lit room. In the center stood a desk along with a chair, a few documents and other miscellaneous items lying over it. One wall had a couple of bookshelves with both books and scrolls filling the shelves. On the other wall there was a mini-bar of sorts which was filled with a wide variety of drinks.

It was then that the duo spotted Emperor Alazar, who was calmly pouring himself some liquid into a glass. Upon more careful inspection they realized this was not wine or an alcoholic drink but milk. At his feet there was a dark brown Troodon, its gaze focused on him before noticing their arrival and hissing at them menacingly. Both took a step back but before either of them could say anything they realized Lieutenant Ronan was already bowing down with one hand on his chest.

"Imperator Alazar, second ruler of the legion. I present to you the arena warriors, now at your disposal" Said Ronan.

Sasha looked at him, then noticed Alazar's gaze resting upon them. Not wanting to anger him she quickly imitated Ronan's bow the best she could. Max, on the other hand, didn't bow down. He simply kept his eyes focused on the emperor of the legion as the latter took a sip of his glass and walked over to the desk. The lieutenant gave him a silent glare while remaining in bowing position.

Once he stood in front of the Desk Alazar focused his gaze on Max. Their eyes meeting for only a few moments before the young man diverted his eyes to Sasha and the Lieutenant, then lowered his head.

"You may lift your heads now"

In accordance to his command all three of them stood upright, with the lieutenant still giving Max the stink eye, although the young man was far too focused on Alazar and his pet to be concerned by it. A cold sweat running down his back as he tried his best to keep a strong composure.

As the emperor approached, so did his pet Troodon. The vicious creature circling and hissing at both of them while he spoke.

"As my lieutenant here just said, my name is Alazar. Alazar Leones. I am the second General and current leader of the new Legion"

Alazar took a few steps closer before focusing on Sasha, who grew uneasy as their eyes met.

"Now then. What would your name be?" He asked.

"Sa-Sasha...My name is Sasha Brockwood, Imperator" Replied Sasha with a slight stutter.

"Brockwood? I believe I've heard the name before" Said Alazar with one hand on his chin "Could it be you're somehow related to Garlock Brockwood?"

"Yes, Imperator. He was my father" She replied.

"Well, that explains it" Said Alazar with pleasant suprise "Your father is quite popular among mercenaries from the golden Hesperonis. Alas, he never showed up in the island"

As he spoke, the emperor steppped a little closer to her to take a more careful look.

"Regardless, my current interest lies in your own deeds" Said Alazar "In the spam of a year and a half you built yourself a mercenary band, took on the mantle of "raptor queen" and reached a respectable level of renown through a mixture of brutal efficiency and strong leadership, and even then you still yearned to cimb even higher. You're quite the ambitious one, aren't you? "

Sasha didn't respond to Alazar's words. While his observations were suprisingly detailed it didn't come as a shocker to her as she was well aware of just how fearsome and meticulous the legion's spies were rumored to be. Instead, the raptor queen's biggest concern lied elsewhere.

Despite many attempts to maintain prolonged eye contact with him, more often than not Sasha would find herself wanting to divert her eyes down or to the side just to avoid meeting his gaze. The difficulty of this task felt equally frustrating and puzzling to her as it was something that she did against her own will.

(What the hell is going on?)" She thought while sweating profusely "(What's the deal with this man?)"

As someone who spent her whole life in the circuit, Sasha met her fair share of mercenaries and then some more. Battle-hardened, seasoned warriors who in some cases had commited crimes that would easily put them in life imprisonment if not death row. Each one intimidating and vicious in their own right, yet all paled in comparison to the man standing in front of her right now, but for a completely different reason.

Alazar's wasn't particulary imposing in terms of physique and his behaviour wasn't one of someone attempting to intimidate others. Quite the opposite, he was calm and even jovial to some degree. And as expected of an experienced leader, he had a smooth and soothing voice that never stuttered nor broke its flow. Sasha would even be inclined to think he was quite a charming figure if it wasn't for the chills running down her spine everytime their eyes met.

This eventually led to a single question lingering in her mind.

"(Why are his eyes so damn unsettling?)" She questioned to herself "(Everytime I look at him, I feel like I'll go crazy if I don't look away)"

Despite his seemingly friendly surface appearance and behavior, Sasha could tell something was terribly off about the emperor's eyes, or rather, his gaze. It was calm yet packed an intensity unlike anything the raptor queen ever experienced before. Everytime they met it felt as if he was staring right into her very soul and dissecting it with every passing second. All of her secrets and thoughts laid bare for him to read like an open book, such a sensation was overwhelming yet she didn't feel like this was all there was to it. Sasha could sense something else lingering within that gaze. Despite not knowing what that something was, it held such an opressive sense of dread that she couldn't bring herself to look at them for too long.

As she continued to scramble her brains with this, Alazar himself continued to speak.

"Ambition can be a mighty driving force, and one that is certainly appreciated in the ranks of the new legion" He said calmly.

The emperor then diverted his gaze towards Max once more. The tone of his voice as he spoke displaying a higher degree of fascination than before.

"And you..." He finally asked "What is your name, youth?"

"Max" Replied the young man "My name is Max...Imperator"

"No surname?" Said Alazar with raised eyebrows "Oh well, I suppose such things are not all that uncommon"

As both of them spoke to each other, Sasha was struck by bewilderment. he was able to keep his gaze focused on his and even speak with a degree of certainty that she could barely muster up.

"(How is this brat keeping his cool against that?)" She thought

Her eyes, in an attempt to understand his unwavering steadyness, looked at him from head to toe. The first thing she noticed was his shivering right arm, then the tightly clenched hand. And then after starting more closely she noticed the blood between his fingers, dripping down towards the floor in small droplets.

"(Blood? Is his hand injured?)" She thought "(Don't tell me...He's keeping his mind focused through physical pain?)"

"Well then" Said Alazar "Now that we've had a proper introduction, let us proceed to the matter at hand"

With a calm step the emperor walked back towards his desk before turning around and facing the duo while putting both hands on the desk. His Troodon stuck by the side of the duo, however. Its attention eerily focused on the blood dripping from the young man's hand. The fragance of it causing the reptile to drool and hiss even louder, as if eagerly anticipating a meal. For a moment it seemed as though the Troodon would leap at him.

"Hecates" Said Alazar, using a far more imposing tone "Here...Now"

In a mere instant the Troodon lowered it's head and reeled back from Max. It then met the emperor's gaze before scurrying off to his side once more.

"Apologies for that" He said "Now then"

While Max felt a modicum of relief at the departure of the Troodon Sasha could only break a cold sweat after what she witnessed.

"I've been told about your conquest of the green obelisk's guardian, and then witnessed your skills in the arena" He said "I see potential in both of you, and it is for this reason that have I decided to offer you the grace of Nerva"

"If you don't mind me asking...What exactly is the grace of Nerva, Imperator?" Asked Sasha with the most polite tone she could muster.

"Strange, I was certain the arena warden was to explain this to all newly brought prisoners" Commented Alazar in more of a monologue than a reply "It seems we'll have to reinforce regulations more strictly around the arena once again"

"Imperator, if I may" Said Ronan, who up until now was mostly silent.

The emperor didn't speak out but in spite of this did a hande gesture signaling his approval, which prompted the lieutenant to give an explanation

"The grace of Nerva is the name given to the occasion during which the imperator or one of his lieutenants deems exceptionally skilled warriors to be worthy of consideration" He explained "While not precisely mandatory the lieutenant, or in this case imperator, that extended the grace usually offers the acknowledged warrior a chance to become a personal underling. In a way, you could say it's a form of commendation"

Both Sasha and Max looked at Ronan for a bit longer before focusing once more on the imperator.

"And there you have it. The long and short of it" Said Alazar "Swear fealty to the new legion, devote all of your abilities to your position as my direct subordinates and you shall in turn be rewarded. Of course, there will be certain conditions but I assure you, you have much to gain from this opportunity"

Upon hearing the promise of a reward the duo's interest grew significantly but they still took this with a grain of salt, which seemingly was sensed by the emperor given his following statement.

"If you have any questions, you are now free to ask them" He said.

"Then, I'll go first. Imperator" Commented Sasha "What are these conditions and rewards you speak of?"

"For starters, you'll become part of the special occulatus unit and undergo an intensive training regime to further nurture and refine your talents" He explained "As for the rewards. It's mostly up to you. If you have the strength and perseverance to strive for it, then you will attain it. Such is the way of the new legion"

"And what happens if we refuse?" Asked Max this time "What if if we say we want to leave instead of staying?"

"If you wish to leave then you can readily do so" Replied Alazar nonchalantly "Those who earn the status of citizen also earn the freedom to chose their own path"

"Just like that?" He asked again

"Just like that" Insisted Alazar

Both of them looked at him with surprise before Sasha spoke up.

"It would be quite wasteful. But Alas, I understand this can be a weighty choice to make" He continued "For the time being, use what remains of this day to rest and recover. Give our conversation some thought and then come back tomorrow to give me an answer. I will respect the choice both you make regardless of the outcome"

A short silence lingered in the room, both Sasha and Max thinking about their current choices.

"Now then, I have plenty of work left to do for the day so we must unfortunately bid farewell for now" Said Alazar "my lieutenant will assign someone that will escort you to your temporary quarters for the night. Consider it a display of the new legion's hospitality"

While the emperor poured himself another glass of milk, Max and Sasha were escorted outside the room by Ronan. But just as the Lieutenant opened the door, they were stopped by the Emperor.

"Oh...One last thing before you go" He said, looking at them and speaking with a notably more stern tone than before "After defeating the guardian...Who claimed her trophy?"

The raptor queen's eyes widened upon hearing this question, yet she felt initially hesitant to answer truthfully out of fear her explanation regarding the voice inside her head might make her look mentally unstable.

"I...I'm not sure, imperator" She replied "After the spider died we got warped back to the obelisk, so I didn't see any thropy"

At the same time, Max diverted his gaze to the implant in his arm and turned his forearm in such a way that the diamond-shaped object would not be in direct eyesight. The emperor, however, did not fail to notice this subtle gesture.

"I didn't see it either, Imperator..." Said Max, attempting for the first time to avoid eye contact with Alazar.

"I see..." Replied Alazar with a lower tone than before "In that case, you may leave now"

Once again Ronan bowed and escorted the duo out of the room. As they went back into the hallway to meet with the guards Max looked over his shoulder at the closing door, the figure of the emperor still visible in the ever decreasing gap, his eyes still focused on him.

Once the door was fully closed they were once again guided by a guard to a brand new location. All the while pondering about the emperor's offer.


*Scene*


Leaves rustled among the thick vegetation, folia shivering in a trail-like motion as Wilson made its way through them before reaching a clearing and popping its head out into the open, a small leather bag dangling as it held the hefty container of berries in its beak. Looking at the surrounding area the Dodo was able to spot another Dodo grazing around in search of food. Seeing this Wilson walked out of the bushes and approached it. It didn't take long for the Dodo to take notice of the other bird's presence and turn its head to face it. Both of them looked at each other as Wilson approached and shook its wings as a form of greeting, a gesture that was soon copied by the other bird.

Wilson made a few chirps, which were replied with a similar sound along with a shook of the head by the other Dodo. Wilson then put down the bag of berries and picked up a nearby stick, using it to make lines in the dirt and create the silhouette of the iconic helmets used by the New Legion. Once this drawing was complete the other Dodo looked at it before diverting his gaze to Wilson, who was now holding the stick horizontally in its mouth and walking around, but doing so in a slow, strenous way that imitated an animal pulling on a cart.

This time, the other Dodo chirped with a seemingly cheerful tone before turning his head towards a certain direction and nudging it forward twice. Wilson chriped with an equally cheerful tone in repsonse to this before heading over to the leather bag, spreading it open, taking out a few berries out and leaving them on the ground in front of the other Dodo. The bird was quick to indulge and eat them while Wilson picked up the bag with its beak and headed off to continue the chase for the new legion's convoy.

After a few meters Wilson ran into a dirt path covered in tracks and cartwheel marks. Following them for a couple of hours led the Dodo to a large wall made out of concrete and thick metal plates. In the center stood a massive metal door, large enough for even the most titanic of beasts to go through and gates mighty enough to withstand an entire army's attack. There were also guards on both sides and on top of the wall armed with metal armor and assault rifles.

Ocassionally, the Dodo would see the massive gates swing open to allow the passage of carts carrying resources such as wood. It was these carts that gave Wilson an idea of how to sneak inside.

Meanwhile, somewhere inside Elysium, Max was being taken from his temporary quarters to once again meet up with the emperor alongside Sasha. Both of them spent the night in the private quarters supplied to them. And while the idea of sneaking out and making a daring escape was tempting, the guards stationed outside their rooms and the sealed reinforced windows prevented them from turning this idea into a reality.

Suprisingly, their lodgings were quite pleasant if not a little plain. A dresser, a storage chest and even a proper bed with an actual mattress stuffed with pelt. It was a level of comfort that felt strangely outlandish to Max, who over the last two months or so grew used to sleeping next to a campfire in the floor. Regardless, neither this nor the waryness he felt regarding his current whereabouts could stop him from falling aslleep due to all the piled up exhaustion from the battles against the Broodmother and the arena combat draining him beyond his limits.

Shortly after waking up Ronan dropped by to escort him, leading him once again through the streets of the city and into the emperor's office, where he was already waiting for their arrival.

"I take it you had a good rest?" Asked Alazar

"I knew the legion was advanced but I never expected beds with proper mattresses" Said Sasha with bewilderment "Can't even remember the last time I slept in one of those"

"(Now that she mentions it, I can't remember the last time I slept in a proper mattress either...)" Thought the young man

Max wasn't eager to admit it but he couldn't deny feeling refreshed upon waking up as well.

"A privilege granted to the citizens of the new legion" Said Alazar "And a mere glimpse of what awaits you in the near future. That is, if you choose to accept my grace"

Both the raptor queen and the young man looked at the emperor in silence, their minds pondering the offer one final time before once again Sasha took it upon herself to break the silence by speaking first.

"I don't know about him but I'll take the offer" She said with a decisive tone "That damn spider killed nearly all of my men and the few that remain ran for the hills. Plus, I'm flat out broke"

Alongside the loss of her employees Sasha also lost all of her savings, which were spent for the sake of completing a contract that ended up being a complete failure, thus leading her to being in a state of bankruptcy. With no currency to handle all the expenses nor a workforce to reliably earn back the losses she was pretty much broke. In other words, the black raptor company was done for. At least in the Golden Hespis.

With that said, Sasha was nothing if not determined. And she wouldn't give up on the black raptor name so easily.

"If I gotta start over might as well take whatever the new legion's offering" She added "Also, there's one thing I'd like to as for, Imperator"

"And that would be?" Asked Alazar.

"I want to build a black raptor squad of my own" She answered "20...no, just 10 good men is all I need for it to work. With them, I should be able to make an efficient team"

Ronan looked at the raptor queen with suprise while Alazar didn't reply right away, instead taking a moment of thinking before a smirk formed on his face.

"Generals will always seek soldiers, it seems" Said the emperor. "Very well. I can arrange that. Ronan?"

"I'll handle the paperwork for it, Imperator" Said Ronan

"My thanks" Replied Alazar.

Alazar then approached Sasha up until he was in front of her and put both hands on her shoulders. Although this was most likely meant as a friendly gesture the raptor queen couldn't help but feel uneasy once more by locking eyes with him.

"Now that that's decided, I welcome you into the new legion" He said "Victory through discipline, freedom through strength. Remember those words well, for they are the dogma of our great legion"

After a few pats on her shoulders the emperor moved his hands away and took a step back before diverting his focus towards Max, who up until being addressed was in a mostly pensive state.

"And what is your decision?" He asked to the young man.

Max looked at Alazar and opened his mouth but before he could answer the sound of a large bell echoing repeatedly in the air caught everyone's attention. It's source was the plaza outside. And judging by how loud it was, the bell's sound was easily being heard at least a few blocks away.

The emperor looked at the balcony's direction with a mostly monotone expression.

"The bell of Ananke" Said Ronan "Seems like the slave auction has begun"

"(Auction...!)" Thought Max with widened eyes.

"So it seems..." Commented the Emperor before turning his head "Anyway, what's your-"

Paying no heed to the distraction Alazar looked at the young man to question him once more yet saw Max paid no attention to his words, instead walking past him and going out to the balcony. Much to the suprise of the emperor and the Lieutenant's vexation.

"You impudent brat! You dare ignore the imperator!?" Snarled Ronan.

Max paid little heed to the Lieutenant as well and quickly headed out for the balcony. As expected of a spot made for an emperor he had quite a view of Elysium from the edge of the balcony, and it gave him a pretty clear idea of just how large this citadel truly was. Looking down he saw a clear view of the entire plaza. The multiple shops and scores of people walking about, minding their own daily business. It was all clearly visible to him from there.

Scanning the area he came to spot a large crowd of people gathering in front of a stage built out of stone on the other side of the plaza. The stage was located on the marketplace and close to a tower with a large, swinging bell on top, it was decorated with red curtains on top. On one side he could see what looked like a line of people, and upon straining his eyes he noticed they were wearing ragged clothing and being led by chains put on their necks, hands and feet.

It was among this line of chained people that he spotted Angela. She, alongside the other slaves, was being dragged towards the side the stage and being made to form a line next to a staircase while a man dressed in a rather colorful suit skipped his way up on the stage to greet the crowd. Thanks to the microphone and loudspeakers attached to the frame behind the stage Max could hear his voice loud and clear even from the balcony.

"Ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to today's auction!" Said the dealer with an energetic tone "Hope you saved up on your nervans cause boy oh boy do we have some prime quality goods in store today!"

The dealer continued acting with the joviality of a game show announcer rather than a slave trader as he gestured at the line on the side of the stage, urging the legion guards to bring the first slave in line to come up. As he proceeded to introduce the slave and listed his qualities, Max focused his eyes mostly on Angela before eventually diverting it to the crowd. It was at that moment that, among the people, he spotted yet another familiar face. A face he would never mistake even from that distance.

"(That's-!)"

His eyes widened and his pupils became smaller as he saw her. Her long, waist-length golden blonde hair,her thigh-length dress compromised of black and green tunics and her pink hairclip, located on the back of her head.

"(Amelia!)"

As the realization finally set in the bewilderment was quickly gone, replaced instead by an overwhelming wrath. The calm, smug smirk on her face causing his blood to boil and his teeth to clench hard enough to nearly crack from the pressure.

At the same time as this happened, the Lieutentant quickly stomped towards him with a twitching eyebrow.

"Just how long do you intend to continue this audacious behavior, you-!?" He snarled.

As he reached out to grab his shoulder, Ronan's eyes widened after seeing his face. A strong shiver running down his spine quickly caused him to instinctively move his hand away. With a frown he was quick to take hold of the sword on his hip yet as he tried pulling it out of the scabbard he was suprised to be suddenly stopped mid-way through by the emperor taking hold of his wrist.

"Imperator?"

Alazar didn't reply nor made any eye contact with his Lieutenant, but instead looked in silence at the young man's smoldering expression. His gaze solely focused on him as he watched the flame reflected within those eyes with a certain fascination.

Then all of a sudden and with no warning, Max climbed off the side of the balcony and jumped off much to the Lieutenant and Sasha's shock.

"Wha-!? Hey!" Called out Ronan.

Both the raptor queen and the Lieutenant peered over the edge of the balcony and saw the young man holding onto a wall banner as he slid down a floor. He then jumped from a window frame to another a couple of times, continuing to descend the structure before reaching a pillar and using it to slide down to ground level. The guards on the front entrance looking at him with bewilderment before looking at eachother.

"Imperator! I'll call the guards inmediately!" Said Ronan.

"Don't" Replied the Emperor bluntly

Ronan was about to head towards the hallway and alert all guards yet was stopped by Alazar's order. He looked at the imperator, whose gaze was still focused on the young man as he moved through the plaza.

"As you wish..." Said Ronan with a hint of reluctance in his voice.

The Lieutenant remained inside the office while both Alazar and Sasha focused on the plaza below them, watching the young man as he drew closer and closer to the auction. A nearly feral look in his face that, while mostly unnoticed by the majority of bystanders, made anyone crossing his path step away in a mixture of fear and confusion.

With every step he took, every meter that he drew nearer to Amelia, the memory of that day resurfaced as well. The condescending look in her eyes and her conceited smirk, the mocking and disdainful faces of the students that beat him up and tried to kill him, the fear, the anger, the bitterness. It was all coming back to him and only serving to fuel his bloodthirst.

As he walked into the crowd, his own words echoed in his mind as he made his way towards her.

"(It was because of you assholes that I ended up the way I did...)" Echoed the words "(And I will make sure you regret it...)"

Creeping through the people, pushing and sliding through those who stood in his way before eventually standing right behind the green flower. His eyes focused solely on her as she continued to spectate the auction with amusement, completely oblivious to his presence.

"(Every single second of it...!)" Echoed the words once more.

Then, the green flower's expression changed into one of confusion. She turned her head to look behind her and saw him, her expression soon changing into one of shock. But before she could react the young man grabbed her by the neck with both hands, getting a firm grip on it.

Those among the crowd turned their heads to look in bewilderment and shock as they saw Max slowly lift Amelia off of her feet by a few centimeters. She kicked and struggled, grabbing tightly onto his wrists for the slightest form of support yet it was all in vain. She attempted to talk, to scream even yet no sound would come out as his grasp was steadily draining her oxygen supply.

With every second he tightened his grip, slowly but steadily closing her wind-pipe and causing her to choke. The attempts to scream soon changed into desperate, struggling gasps for air that would not make it to her lungs. Her face was draining of color and the veins on her eyes grew reddish yet Max did not stop there. He continued to squeeze and squeeze and squeeze even further until, eventually, a loud crunching sound echoed in the air.

The green flower no longer struggled, her body then went limp and her voice quiet.

Upon seeing this the young man loosened his grasp, letting her now lifeless body drop to the ground like a ragdoll. Her head bent in an unnatural angle and her neck now blue and purple with the mark of his grasp now carved on it.

Screams began to echo all around Max as he remained focused on Amelia and her bloodshot, widened eyes. The light that once reflected on them now gone, leaving only a blank darkness which he continued to peer and eventually get lost into.

Then, as he blinked, the world suddenly changed back.

In confusion, the young man looked around. The crowd was still focused on the auction, all with different types of amusement or eagerness to see the slaves. Amelia was once again in front of him, still alive and still oblivious to his presence.

Without realzing it, he seemed to have gotten lost in a fantasy. Yet this fantasy would soon turn to reality as he once again raised his hands and slowly drew them towards the green flower's neck. His fingers getting closer and the veins on his forearms becoming swollen as his muscles prepared to apply every ounce of force they could muster into the act of squeezing the life out of Amelia.

"And now, I'd like to introduce you all to the best lot of today's auction!" Said the dealer while looking at a piece of paper "Arrived all the way from the year 2017, a lovely young lass. Pure of both body and mind. She was praised by those around her due to her beauty and excellence in fields of study such as business administration, political science, social science, law, jurisprudence, economy and international affairs. Ladies and gentlemen! Let me introduce you to the blue flower, Angela Buckworth!"

Upon hearing Angela's name the young man's hands stopped in place, mere inches away from touching Amelia's hair. For a moment he diverted his gaze to the stage and sure enough saw the blue flower walking into view. She was dressed in an old cloth dress that barely reached down to her thighs and was made to fit tightly against her body by being tied on the waist with a strap of cloth, further emphasizing her curves. Her mouth was gagged, her hands and feet were both chained with iron cuffs along with an iron collar to her neck. A long chain was attached to the collar, and it was used by one of the guards to force her to walk by pulling on it and eventually given to the dealer to hold.

Once she stood in plain sight the crowd roared in excitement. Chatter was quick to liven up within it, with some echoing around the young man.

"Ohhhhh! She's quite a hottie!" Said one male voice "I wanna buy her!"

"No way dude" Said another male voice "With curves and smarts like those, the hotshots are probably gonna empty their wallets dry against eachother trying to get her"

"Beauty and smarts, he says" Said a female voice before scoffing "Hah! If she really was that smart then she wouldn't be getting sold off right about now."

The chatter continued echoing all around Max, some sounding eager and others sounding dismissive or even condescending. A repulsive disgust forming in the pit of his stomach as he listened to them and their mockery.

"Now then! Offer starts at 800 Nervans!" Said the dealer.

"900 Nervans!" Instantly offered one midde-aged man dressed in a tunic

"1300 Nervans!" Offered another man, this one dressed in a military officer's clothing.

"1600 Nervans!"

"1800 Nervans!"

The offers continued to go one after the other as the dealer kept hyping up the crowd and Angela looked at them.

Max watched this go on for a bit before focusing once more on Amelia, and upon doing so he saw her raise her hand to make an offer as well.

"2400 Nervans!" She offered with a smile.

The cheerful tone of her voice and carefree attitude when offering a price soon caused the young man's blood to boil again. That delight on her smile as she saw Angela being sold like a mere thing, it infuriated him.

"(This bitch...!)" He thought with a popped vein "(This is all just a game to you, isn't it!?)"

As he was invaded by this anger, Max's eyes momentarily diverted towards the stage once again. And much to his suprise, he saw Angela looking his way. For that brief moment both of them made direct eye contact, and it was then that he finally had a clear look at the blue flower's face.

The blue flower of discipline was nowhere to be seen in those eyes. Instead, Max saw overwhelming terror and despair, seeping out in the form of tears running down her cheeks. Her eyes were solely focused on him and him alone, even as the crowd continued to roar and make increasing offers in an attempt to make her their property. Some of them even starting joke around and laugh at her terrified state.

Eventually, she diverted her gaze and looked down. The last shards of hope left in her eyes steadily fading away as she closed her eyes and braced for the inevitable, all the while quivering in terror at the thought. Max continued to look at her for a moment longer before slowly lowering his hands. He then looked again at Amelia and the delight in her face. The same face of content she displayed to him so long ago.

Seeing this, Max raised one of his hands one more time. This time, however, he did not reach for her neck but instead placed his hand on her shoulder and used it to push her aside, giving himself room to walk forward.

"He-Hey! What do you think you're doing!?" She snarled "Just who do you think you're touching, you-!?"

As the green flower regained her footing she instantly took an aggressive stance. Yet the moment she recognized Max her expression soon changed from vexation to shock. Almost instantly she took multiple steps away, crashing against a few spectators as she broke a cold sweat.

"Y-You!? Why are you here!?" She asked in bewilderment.

Max didn't answer the question. He didn't even bother looking at Amelia as he stepped towards the stage, eventually reaching the front. And jumping up onto the stage. Something that quickly spread bewilderment among the crowd and the dealer.

"He-Hey! Who are you!? You're not allowed to get up on stage!" Said the dealer while taking a step back "Guards! Guards, restrain this person right now!"

Without wasting a second mutiple men dressed in hide armor were quick to surround Max and aim their pikes at him. Each of the sharp metal tips mere inches away from his body. He looked around him and saw a few more guards, these ones armed with pistols and longneck rifles, quickly approaching the stage as well.

Over his shoulder, he spotted the balcony. Alazar, Ronan and Sasha spectating the scene he was currently causing from that spot.

Things were growing worse with every passing second but the young man simply diverted his gaze back to Angela. The flower kept her head lowered and her mind stuck in shock.

Slowly, he clenched his right hand and then proceeded to take a long, deep breath. Once his lungs were filled to the brim, he unleashed a cry so powerful it was heard by every single person in the entire plaza.

"ALAZAAAAAAR! ! !" He shouted "I MADE MY CHOICE! ! !"

Not only did this sudden shouting gave many of the onlookers quite a spook but it also managed to snap Angela out of her trance, causing her to look at him.

The guards surrounding him leaned backwards a few inches as they looked at each other with confusion and bewilderment before one woman among the crowd was quick to point out the presence of their leader and ruler, causing everyone to divert their gaze to the emperor in either bewilderment or suprise. Confused mutter echoing among the crowd as some tried to make heads or tails of what was going on.

As the young man looked at the emperor over his shoulder, he as well silently gazed back at the young man before speaking up. His voice loud and clear despite the distance, mostly thanks to the deathly silence that took over the entire plaza.

"Legionnaires! Lower your weapons!" Ordered Alazar

It didn't even take ten seconds for his order to be fulfilled as every guard aiming their pike at Max was quick to move it away and step aside, giving both sides a perfectly clear field of view of each other as Max turned around to face him.

"I'll join the new legion, and I'll swear loyalty to you!" Said Max "But on one condition!"

The young man then turned around once more and walked past the guards, heading straight towards Angela and the dealer. The latter being quick to panic as he stepped closer and suddenly snagged the chain away from him before looking at Alazar once again.

"Give this woman citizenship too!" He said loud and clear.

No gesture nor muffled sound came from the blue flower. She simply looked at Max with widened eyes, the once fading light within them now steadily glowing brightly once more.

"Unfortunately, that won't do!" Replied Alazar "Citizenship has to be earned! That is an ironclad rule of the new legion!"

Max frowned upon hearing this, yet the emperor had more to say.

"However, there is an alternative here!" Continued Alazar "While she cannot be given citizenship, she can be bought by you!"

At that moment both the young man and the blue flower reacted with surprise, causing them to look at each other before looking at the emperor again.

"Granted, of course, you have the coin to afford her!" Said Alazar with a more suggestive tone.

A frown was quick to form on Max's face once more along with a cold sweat on his brow as he knew exactly what the emperor was attempting to do.

Upon turning his head to momentarily look at Angela's gaze, he was quick to click his tongue while looking back at Alazar again. He had to make a choice, and so he did.

"I don't have coin, but I have something else!" Said Max while raising his left arm "The trophy of the Broodmother!"

Confusion soon spread among those in the crowd, including citizen, slave and guard alike. None of them understood the meaning of this trophy he spoke of nor why it would be worth enough to trade for such a high-quality slave. But unlike them, Alazar was all too aware of its true worth.

And so the emperor of the new legion curved his lips into a smirk. Pleased at the knowledge he obtained both a most valuable relic and new subordinate to go along with it.

"I gladly accept the trade!" Said Alazar, spreading his arms in a welcoming gesture "I welcome you to the new legion, young legionnaire!"