Et tamen sol fulget


Thought for the Day:

"An open mind is like an open wound. Prone to infection, quick to decay."


Tunnel System, Lescatie

The Grenadier scanned the darkness in front of him, his eyes adjusting to the shadows slowly. The stormtrooper had no such weakness, his bright red eyes glinting in the dark as he peered through it with impunity.

They cautiously began sweeping the tunnels before them, taking great care to be as stealthy as possible. Though that would be quite difficult with Jyrki's iconic red eyes glowing balefully in the dark.

They heard some rapid footsteps and gazed down the dark and cramped tunnels, taking note of the retreating form.

"And so the hunters become the hunted." Jyrki chuckled dryly.

They wasted no time pursuing, chasing after their quarry with haste, but it would be to little avail. The tunnels likely had many nooks and crannies, so when they turned a corner, their prey was gone.

The stormtrooper scanned the damp, dark tunnels with his laspistol while tightening his grip on his combat knife. The Grenadier's hellgun whirred quietly as he looked around cautiously, checking his back, front, sides, and top. Nothing but dark damp tunnels all around him, and no sign of their quarry at all. He felt briefly annoyed before squashing that emotion, and the pair explored the tunnels earnestly and cautiously.

They began tracking their prey not too long after, finding increasingly fresh tracks on the ground as they skulked. There were more tracks now and the stormtrooper rubbed his chin in thought.

"Seems like multiple groups use these tunnels." he commented, dusting away some tracks to reveal there were around four identifiable types.

The Grenadier nodded, and the two were off again, moving at a steady pace as they made sure to sweep every inch of their new surroundings.

It seems however that the tunnels steadily became a labyrinth as numerous pathways began branching off and such. The pair cautiously scanned each path, taking note of the tracks and where they led to. Occasionally they'd find some strange contraptions, objects with benign exteriors emitting some faint purple gas. Based off the fact that it was underneath one of the city's sewer ventilation shafts, the two could only assume it was a gas contraption.

The stormtrooper gave it a cursory glance and got about trying to disarm and dismantle it.

It hissed at him when he did something and emitted a faint purple vapor, one that began to thicken before it became a haze and then a cloud.

"Blasted contraption." he spat, tinkering with it again and the object ceased it's functions.

Nodding, they left it well alone. Best to leave such objects undisturbed, their ignorance of such traps could spell consequences to come. The stormtrooper was confident he could disarm the thing but he rather not take any unnecessary risks when they had such few resources.

They continued to carefully examine the tunnels before them, doing another sweep and following after the various footsteps imprinted in the ground. These figures were clumsy and made no attempt to hide themselves and the imperials would show them the folly of their ways. They continued to walk in that direction for quite some time, wary of any possible ambushes.

They began running into oddities along the way as they went, curious sightings and trinkets and baubles.

They discovered caches of pouches filled with powder, small potions filled with an unknown elixir, and occasionally even a few bits of weapons and clothing, though it was certainly strange. Why would they leave behind their weapons and clothes here?

Jyrki scanned the area some more and discovered a secluded little area, almost akin to a cramped room. His look of disgust told the Grenadier enough as the man stepped out of the room.

"Filthy mutants." he spat, sounding both furious and embarrassed.

It made Ludwig look at the stormtrooper with bemusement, an inkling of amusement in his gaze at the other man's disgust.

Shrugging, the two of them continued on, slowly sweeping the tunnels before them. While they were briefly checking another small stockpile, the Grenadier heard the faint sounds of quick footsteps and without hesitation, ducked down.

In mere moments, a hand swung over where his head was, an iron studded club clutched in their hands. The Grenadier wasted no time slamming his elbow backwards into the figure and he turned himself around in that same motion and opened fire with his hellgun three times. The first shot perforated the figure's crotch, the second caved in the chest, and the third annihilated the neck and made their head pop off messily. Blood splattered everywhere and it spilled over his mask, causing him to growl.

"You bastard!"

He wiped it off hurriedly, smearing blood all over his beloved gasmask while dodging backwards as an enraged cry was heard. He narrowly missed being slashed at by a rusty dagger, slamming the stock of his hellgun at the offending figure's face.

The attacker fell backwards and the imperial got a good look at him and scoffed. He wore the clothes of a local Lescatian, a daytaler perhaps, and he was screaming like a banshee as he clutched his eye, blood streaming down his face.

"Another dreg." he thought disdainfully as he raised his hellgun, only to be blasted by a wave of magic.

He flew backwards a fair distance, rolling so that he fell onto his side rather then his powerpack. The sounds of Jyrki snarling echoed in the claustrophobic tunnels and the veteran imperial rolled to his feet, looking up to find the stormtrooper already gutting one of their attackers with his knife while another tried to rush him, sword in hand.

A lithe, feminine form with vibrant wings like a bastardized angel, and clothed like a harlot. It reminded him of that succubus he had helped catch from the village days ago. A local mutant most likely and the Grenadier frowned as he lifted his hellgun and fired. The mutant paused as she heard the harsh discharge and turned, swinging her sword. The crimson lasbolt slammed against the shiny silver and exploded, sending hot fragments everywhere and causing her to hiss in pain as they ricochet onto her.

She threw the partially melting hilt at him, causing him to dodge to the side as he prepared to fire again only for the mutant to fly forward speedily, slamming into him and sending them both to the ground. Sprawled out with her on top of him, hellgun out of reach and her straddling him, he moved to get her off when she tried holding him down. Her eyes began glowing a vibrant bright violet and her hands were wreathed in the same energy. She grabbed at his face and forcibly tried to use her foul sorcery.

He felt drowsy all of a sudden and his limbs felt heavy when he tried to move them. Alarmed, he tried to shake her off and bucked wildly, but she straddled his waist tightly and stubbornly stayed stuck to him, face in a worried scowl as she forcibly tried to subdue him.

Growling weakly, he grabbed at her hands and moved them, despite the heaviness in his arms and the sudden drowsiness. She opened her mouth and breathed out a fine purple mist, blowing out in a shape of a heart and hitting against his gasmask. It was ineffective and dispersed harmlessly.

It was likely another one of her tricks, though that had no effect on him due to his faithful rebreather. Her eyes widened and he took that time to retaliate, shaking her grip off and slamming his fist across her face, giving her a wicked black eye and knocking her to the ground.

The Grenadier grunted as he drunkenly got up and then fell onto his knees, his head swimming. He held his head and groaned, trying to steady himself while reaching into his webbings and unsheathing his bayonet, the glittering combat knife shining in the dark and thirsting for the blood of his enemies.

He held his bayonet tightly, getting to his feet and dragging himself towards the dazed mutant who looked at him in confusion before terror settled in. She tried to move but he slammed into her, knocking her to the ground and pinning her down. He started pushing with all his might, the bayonet slamming down only to miss as the mutant squirmed. Sharpened monosteel missed her sides by mere centimeters and she screamed, trying to push him off.

He let out a grunt of annoyance as he held her down even more harshly, keeping her still as best as he could and then bringing his arms up and down again, only for her to let out a louder shriek as her hands came up to intercept. Her right palm got pierced by the blade while her left balled into a fist and slammed it at his face ineffectively. She let out a gasp of pain and tried to push him away, her hands moving in desperation while he began to press down harder.

The mutant beneath him screamed at him hoarsely, eyes wide with panic as her doom loomed over her menacingly. She begged for mercy in a tongue he didn't understand nor care to and with desperation that only one moments away from death could have. It was obvious what she wanted but the imperial did not have a single intention of sparing one of her foul ilk.

"D-Don't do this please! Let me go!"

"Please I don't want to die!"

"W-We're not hurting anyone! W-We just want to spread the joys of love!"

She held his hands back admirably, trying her best to keep them from piercing her skin and into the flesh below. Growling, he pushed harder, putting his full weight behind the attack. She in turn pushed back as hard as she could but it was obvious that he had the advantage.

She screamed in terror, especially as the sharpened tip pierced the skin on her stomach and began to dig in deep. She kicked her legs at him futilely, striking harsh and he grunted from the pain. He ignored it in favor of gutting this scum here and there, and though she kicked him hard enough to feel like his ribs were beginning to crack, he didn't relent one bit. Then his arms were on fire, and he let out a brief scream at the sudden intensity of it.

The wretch's hands were wreathed in violet energies again and it felt like her touch was as scorching hot as warpfire...and he knew what that felt like. A scalding wave of pain that made him grit his teeth and scream. His mind stuttered for a moment, the pain causing him to briefly pause. The creature tried desperately to take advantage of it, managing to move his hands for a brief moment before he slammed himself back on her.

"The Emperor...protects." he spat, pushing the knife ever so lower until it was stabbing through her finally.

She began letting out a gasp of pain, then a hoarse scream. The energies around her hands glowed brighter, and he screamed with her as the flesh on his hands felt like they were melting right off the bone. He snarled, clenching his knife so tightly that he knew his knuckles would be pale if not for his gloves. Blood began to pool around her mouth and he brute forced his way through, slowly driving the blade deeper and deeper. Gurgling sounds greeted his ears and he redoubled his efforts regardless of his own agony.

Ignoring his body's fervent cries for relief, he pushed and pushed until the hilt began to touch her skin and the blood began to spill from her mouth, eyes staring at him with terror.

"Y-You m-monster..." she gurgled.

He twisted the bayonet cruelly, the filthy mutant under him coughing up more blood and wheezing before slowly stilling, her violet eyes dimming and fading lifelessly away.

He grunted, coughing as he fell backwards onto his back and gazed at his hands in agony. The horrific, scalding feeling dissipated and he peeled off one of his gloves only to find it untouched, if still scarred. Baffled, he looked at them blankly and gingerly touched the skin to find it unblemished, just aching horribly.

Nearby, Jyrki snarled as he finished wrestling the final, crying traitor onto the ground, screaming hoarsely at them both. He was the only one left alive, the bodies of his comrades dead nearby. Gutted like fish and left to bleed out on the filthy ground.

"You bastards! You fucking animals!" he wailed, "Pieces of shit! To hels with both of you!"

"Shut yer trap maggot." Jyrki snapped, bashing his elbow into the back of his head and knocking him out.

"Well-" he sighed, "That certainly worked up a workout huh Grenadier?"

"Quite." he said breathlessly, sucking in air through his mask raggedly.

Even if he was actually unharmed, his nerves did not seem to think so and he had to steady his shaking hands, the ghostly feeling of the inferno he was subjected to still a memory to them. He balled them into fists, as tight as he could until his knuckles became white and he regained a modicum of control again.

"Come on. Let's keep going, maybe find a place to get out of these tunnels, drop off this piece of shit and then return in force."

The stormtrooper finished tying up their new prisoner and grabbed him by the scuff of his neck, dragging him along callously.

The Grenadier nodded, getting up shakily before sighing and scanning the area more, looking for any openings. He extracted his bayonet out of the corpse casually and hummed in thought as he looked around, picking up his hellgun and giving it a cursory examination.

Scuffed but still good.

He nodded to himself and shouldered his weapon, eyes scanning the environment again. He took note of a faint incline leading up and upon investigating it, saw that the path went towards a small opening. It was partially lit, bits of lighting streaming in through the cracks and investigating it cautiously, he poked his head through and found himself in a basement. Jyrki joined him swiftly, and together the both of them took a peek.

"Well well well. Would ya look at this? Wonder where this leads to." grunted the stormtrooper, shimmying up.

The two of them climbed out of the hole slowly but steadily, finding nooks and crannies to get leverage on as they got up. With a grunt, Jyrki tossed the unconscious body up with them, the man landing with a thump and groaning even in unconsciousness, The room that they found themselves in was lit and well cared for, a far cry from the abandoned hovel that was their last spot. They were in a basement of yet another home, if more extravagant then the last, having come up from a false floor.

It was also currently inhabited, with a startled maid looking at them with shock, especially at the man they had in their grasp.

"..."

Both parties looked at each other silently, though the maid began to open her mouth in panic. Before the maid could presumably scream however, Jyrki shushed her.

"Easy now." he said gently, his arms rising up and down in a placating manner, "We're Imperials."

She let out a shriek regardless, face in even more terror before the stormtrooper smothered them with his hands. He let out a brief, frustrated snarl as he looked at her angrily.

"What was that for you daft woman?" Jyrki demanded, causing the maid to whimper while the Grenadier scanned their environment.

"Barbare! Monstre! " the maid cursed, causing the two imperials to frown.

"You are t-those bâtard outsiders! And now y-you have come to kidnap and r-ravage me, just like poor Analise!" she shrieked.

The two imperials looked at each other in complete bafflement.

A beat of silence where all three of them just stared at each other in astonishment, confusion, or fear. And then...Jyrki grunted

Then he chuckled, before it blew into full blown laughter. One full of genuine amusement as the maid squirmed.

"That is-" Jyrki started, his humor fading away.

"-the most ridiculous-" his humor gave way to annoyance.

"-mind boggling" he advanced forward now, getting into the shivering maid's personal space.

"-and absurd accusation I have ever been subjected to!" Jyrki snapped, his red eyes looking at the maid with only scorn.

The maid shivered in fear, squirming as she leaned back against the wall to stay away. The Grenadier could only look on in bemusement, at loss at what to do as he observed this all happening.

"What is going on down there Lydie?" shouted a voice from higher up.

He snapped his hellgun up as he heard rapid footsteps, turning to the stairs to see a young girl walk down with a haughty stride.

She stopped upon seeing the two well armed strangers inside her basement and opened her mouth to exclaim a bewildered, "What is going on here?"

"Mademoiselle Parshe I apologize greatly for the disturbance but these scélérats emerged from the ground like ghastly ghouls " the maid said, which was supported by the scoffing stormtrooper looming over her.

The stormtrooper scoffed, crossing his arms and looking at them both with scathing loathing.

"Well if you'd let us explain we'd tell you." Jyrki snapped.

"Really? Fine, go on then. Explain yourself." the girl sneered.

"It's simple you see. We're hunting for mutants and traitors. And girl, you have a problem." Jryki stated, bending down and hauling the prisoner up by his collar.

He also gazed at the Grenadier, motioning towards the false floor.

The krieger nodded, walking over and gesturing towards the false floor on the ground where they had emerged from.

The girl and maid blinked in surprise before murmuring together hurriedly and worriedly, gazing at the imperials suspiciously. Finally, the girl scoffed before walking over to them and running her eyes up and down over them both, as if to study them.

"So you're the imperials huh?" she drawled, "You don't look too impressive."

"Really?" Jyrki chuckled, "You shoulda seen this one's friends."

The girl frowned before huffing, "You're certainly crass. Don't you know who I am? My name is Parshe! Parshe Lufarshe, a hero you know?"

"Don't know. Don't care. Now let us through, gotta drop off this bastard and investigate the rest of these tunnels lil missy."

Parshe frowned at them even more, giving Jyrki a glare and crossing her arms.

"Seeing as how you barged into my home I'm inclined to refuse." she bit, "But this is a rather big surprise so I'll let it slide."

She turned to Lydie and called the shivering maid over, the skittish woman obediently doing so even if she squeaked and paled at Jyrki's unnerving stare and the Grenadier's lifeless gaze.

"Lydie, be a dear and call for the guards would you?" Parshe said snappily, causing the maid to nod and running off.

"So there's tunnels under the city huh?" the girl said again, turning to face them, only to find them already in the process of walking away.

"H-Hey! Where are you going?" she repeated, moving quickly to catch up with them.

"To drop this maggot off." grunted Jyrki, the stormtrooper not in the mood to speak.

They walked up the stairs nonchalantly, dragging the body like a sack of bricks and without care.

"You're tracking mud all over my floor you cretins!" the young hero continued to whine, causing Jyrki to chuckle.

"Not my problem."

"I'll hit you."

"And I'll end you." Jyrki guffawed, "So go on. Take your best shot kid."

Parshe bristled at his words and looked ready to actually try when her maid came back, Lydie bending down and murmuring in her ears.

"Noscrim wants me right now"? she said dumbly, gazing back at the backs of the imperials and having half the mind to run after them. She sighed however and looked at the maid with focus, for when Noscrim wanted your attention, he would get it.

"Yes mademoiselle. It is urgent news and-"

The conversation dimmed down before dying away completely as the imperials left the basement and opened the doors into the main hall of the building they found themselves in.

"Seems we're in a manor." Jyrki commented idly, "Seems a bit on the poorer side though."

"...?"

Ludwig gazed at the luxurious, if worn, carpets and drapes along with the various sculptures and paintings everywhere. He wouldn't know. He's only ever seen drab corridors and cold concrete for most of his childhood, and then muddy wastelands and gritty battlefields for most of his adolescent. He shrugged his shoulders silently, looking for the entrance and walking towards it. The stormtrooper shook his head and followed after him.

When they opened the doors, they were greeted by a pair of Order guards, who stared at them with trepidation.

"H-Hail imperials..." the leftmost one said, shivering in his boots, "W-We were told that spies have been found?"

"Aye. That's right lad." Jyrki said, gesturing to the unconscious man in his hands.

"I-I see. Thank you...we'll take it from here." the rightmost guard said, causing Jyrki to gaze at him unnervingly.

"Is that so?"

"T-That's right."

"On whose authority?"

"Noscrim o-outsider. The m-most powerful priest in Lescatie...including the archbishop."

The two guards were terrified of the priest, gazing at each other with pale, sweating faces. Jyrki was unimpressed but he shrugged, dropping the captive like trash and giving a good kick for good measure too.

"Alright. Have at it lads." he offered, causing the two guards to nod their thanks.

"Come brother." the stormtrooper turned to the Grenadier, "Let us return back to Lord Straum immediately and debrief. These tunnels will undoubtedly need to be purged."

He simply nodded.


After dropping off the traitor they caught, they made their way back to the main keep with haste, having found themselves in the Icewreath Quadrant. Meaning the pair had the lovely opportunity of being jeered at by the more fortunate members of the city. Snobby rich people. The various exotic merchants, supposed legendary and renowned blacksmiths and their apprentices, various nobles and their retainers, and of course the wealthy elite.

"Get outta here outsiders!"

"Get lost barbarians!"

"Filthy heathens! You are a stain in Lescatie!"

Truly these people had nothing better to do, and the two veterans either had a good chuckle at the stupidity or were utterly apathetic. They shouldered past men with too much water in their heads and bluster in their chest. But the moment either one of them began to get serious however, the locals scurried away. Classic.

These lescatians gazed at the pair with loathing and fear and the two imperials couldn't help but sigh in exasperation and annoyance. And they would be stuck here for an undetermined amount of time. Classic.

"I hate this city." Jyrki commented, leaving the quadrant behind.

Angry and fearful jeers could still be heard and the pair watched in fascination as a woman held up a replica of what they assumed was an imperial, throttling it inanely. The Grenadier was inclined to agree with him, nodding along as he shook his head. Bastards.

They were eager to leave and avoid any more annoying civilians and found the main keep quickly as a result, dodging crowds by roughly shoving past. There were of course a lot of negative feedback to that but no one was particularly brave enough to face two gritty imperials in a foul mood except for a particularly arrogant Order soldier. They knocked his lights out and though there will surely be complaints about it, neither of them cared at the moment.

They carried on with ease and simply entered the doors to the keep inside. Along the way, Jyrki made a quick stop, telling the Grenadier, "Just a moment brother. I need to check on the mutant. Make sure our big friend didn't have any trouble."

The Grenadier gave him a nod, following after him as they madea quick turn and stood in front of a heavy iron banded door.

The stormtrooper hummed to himself quietly as he opened it and walked through, before letting out a brief sputter of shock.

"Lennie?" Jyrki asked in confusion, and then bafflement as he continued to stare.

"Yessuh?" the ogryn asked innocently, while the gremlin waved at him cheekily from atop the abhuman's shoulders.

"What are you doing?" the stormtrooper hissed, moving forward.

To his surprise, the gremlin hid behind the ogryn while the abhuman stood back up and looked down in the stormtrooper in confusion.

"I wuzz joost helpin' da lil ladee suh!" he said simply, grinning widely.

"He was of great help!" the gremlin chimed in, "Much nicer then you even!"

'Quite." he noted, narrowing his eyes as he sighed and rubbed his nose.

"Lennie your job was strictly just watching over the prisoner, not fraternizing with them."

"Suh?" Lennie asked dumbly, raising his thick brows in confusion.

"Okay big guy let me be more specific. Do not, ever interact with the prisoner in any way Lennie." Jyrki amended, gesturing towards the gremlin on his shoulders.

"She woz sad suh!" Lennie said helpfully, "An' she wonted som' 'elp! An so I did!"

The gremlin blew a raspberry and stuck out her tongue at him, causing the stormtrooper to frown before rubbing his face in agitation.

"That's not the point Lennie!" the man growled, stepping forward and separating them both.

Lennie squirmed like a child being scolded while the gremlin hissed at him, frowning as she was sent off to the side while Jyrki chided Lennie. She hopped off the lovable lug's tree trunklike shoulders and glared at them.

She too acted like a petulant child as she sat down on a chair, crossing her arms and scoffing. The stormtrooper ignored it with contemptuous ease as he essentially nagged the ogryn. Lennie couldn't help but shrink on himself, which was quite comical since he was basically a giant to Jyrki, but the stormtrooper did an admirable job of expressing his disappointment.

The Grenadier simply looked on silently, at complete loss at what to do here and as such simply stood to the side. Unfortunately for him, the gremlin was just as idle and she gazed at him in curiosity.

"Say you're different." the mutant said, "How come you imperials are so different from one another? You got different sects or something?"

"..."

"Well?"

"..."

"Great. Strong silent type huh?" she grouched.

"..." he turned to the salvaged vox, staring at the heretical contraption before him.

"Oh you're welcome by the way! I fixed up your strange gadgets and such, but it keeps making this weird sound!" griped the gremlin again, though the Grenadier ignored it in favor of tinkering with the vox.

If any member of the Mechanicus was here, everyone in this room would for sure be executed or lobotomized into a servitor for this travesty. It was complete and utter tech heresy.

He looked at it with faint disgust, hesitant to even touch the cobbled together and jury rigged vox-caster, cannibalized and put together from three of its kind. He gave it a tap, half expecting it to blow, and was genuinely surprised when it stayed intact.

"Hmmm."

"Ugh! You're all so aggravating!" the gremlin whined again, only to quiet down when the Grenadier gazed at her coldly.

"Remember your place mutant." he commented nonchalantly, rolling his shoulder that had his hellgun strapped on it.

She frowned, gazing at him with contempt and her ears drooped in defeat as she sat back on her chair and kicked her feet aimlessly in the air.

"W-Whatever jerk." sniffled the gremlin, gazing at him with annoyance and fear.

He hummed, satisfied with his point made, and turned back to the vox-caster. He began tuning it, and though he was no operator, he made due. He turned the dials, looking for imperial frequencies and seeing if there were any contacts to be made. The vox broadcasted nothing but static however and the gremlin frowned at him, covering her ears.

"Ugh. What is that racket?"

"..."

"Right right I'm a prisoner with no rights."

He nodded to himself, satisfied he didn't have to repeat himself as he tested the vox-caster again. Perhaps this heretical contraption would not even function? But then he heard it.

Voices.

Leaning in, he tried to hear it.

"...-...-...-...-...-situ-...-unknown-...-cuto-..."

He sighed as he tried tinkering with it again, frowning as the transmission continued being garbled to the point of gibberish. The gremlin however gazed at it with wonder, taking note of the transmissions and then her eyes brightened.

"Oh! Oh I see what you are trying to do now! Just lemme do a quick tune up!" she offered, though the Grenadier ignored her.

She frowned again and poked at his side, causing him to shoot her a death stare, one that made her pale and gulp, yet she stood her ground.

"If you give me some time...and perhaps better arrangements...I can definitely tune it up for you." she offered again, twiddling her fingers nervously.

"You're already being treated quite well actually." Jyrki commented, walking over and leaving a glum looking Lennie behind, thoroughly chastised.

The gremlin frowned and crossed her arms, looking at the stormtrooper with annoyance and nervousness.

"I-I know that. I'm just saying...would it hurt to treat a girl better?"

"You're a filthy, conniving harlot of a mutant that only lives because you happen to have expertise that could be of use to us which is incredibly critical at this moment."

"...ouch..."

The stormtrooper scoffed and walked to the Grenadier's spot, who moved aside for him. Jyrki looked down at the cobbled together vox-caster and began tinkering with the dials as well, trying to get a better frequency while the gremlin sighed, curling up on herself in misery.

"...-ne-...-...-...-...-al-...-guard-...-Deat-...-orps-...-...-nown ter-..."

The stormtrooper sucked in air through his teeth as he sighed heavily and looked at the contraption before looking back at the hopeful gremlin.

"How much time would it take...?"

"...will I...?"

"We will not shoot you."

"...wow...that's such an improvement."

"Would you prefer being hung and your body exposed like the original idea was?"

"...you drive a hard bargain..." the gremlin sighed in sorrow, closing her eyes in defeat.

"Serve well mutant and you may consider the odds of your survival more...favorable." the stormtrooper said, his scarred respmask looking like a crooked grin.


Osaros Region

"The heretics call this place Harrowpoint. Why?" Faolan shrugged to himself, "Who knows. I don't make a habit of getting into their heads."

"As you should Brontian." the Arbites noted, scoffing as the man jumped down from the tree.

"Well. Just like before, sentries on the walls, and one each in the towers. Take out the sentries, then the towers, and we'll be good to go." Faolan said casually.

The three unlikely allies began crawling through the foliage, skulking along the ground and keeping themselves low. The night was quiet, unnaturally so. Ioriel did not like it. She was unnerved and gazed around their surroundings nervously. Her eyes scanned for danger that was not there just yet and she was disquieted at the lack of even bugs chirping or the wind whistling by their ears.

It was completely silent...silent as a grave and she was eager to get this over with.

It was night now and with the new moon out, they were under the complete cover of darkness they began inching towards the outpost, Harrowpoint. A stupid name in Ioriel's opinion and fitting for the likes of these savages.

"I think it's quite clear." the Arbites commented, standing up.

Now that they were on a "mission" together, the dour woman had finally given Ioriel a name. Arbitrator Megaera Procillus. But if you called her anything other then Arbitrator Torquatus she would simply ignored you and as such there was little if any change.

"Kunoichi you are up." she ordered, gesturing towards the wall.

Ioriel sighed and rolled her eyes as she began skulking along the ground silently.

Like a wraith she easily evaded the gazes of the inattentive guards, and then twirled a rock in her hands. With a quick toss, she slammed it against the various crates on the wall and watched in satisfaction as it tipped over and spilled it's contents onto the ground.

As the guard cursed and moved away, Ioriel signaled for her two allies to move quickly. They dashed from the foliage to her with experienced ease, neither making a single sound. They stuck to the shadows like glue and the guard saw nothing, cursing up a storm as he gazed at the mess that happened. His friend joined him not a moment later, gazing at him with annoyance.

"What the frak was that?"

"Don't look at me mate, I ain't do shit."

"You didn't secure the frakking cargo again is what. Crates don't just fall over! Go check it out!"

"Frak you."

"NOW!"

Faolan climbed up the wall first, balancing himself expertly on a single piece of protruding stone.

In each hand was a sharp, wicked looking knife, and when the guard past by again, still cursing his friend, Faolan grabbed the doomed man quickly. Before he could let out a scream, Faolan slit his throat with a single swipe before tossing him off the wall.

The heretic let out a wet gurgle before collapsing with a thud, causing them to wince slightly.

The faint thud was heard by the other guard, who paused and looked around in confusion.

"Eh? Where'd you go you limp dicked bastard?"

He began walking towards the sound, gun raised up in worry and suspicion as he looked for his missing friend, Faolan beneath him, waiting to strike.

"Hey! Where'd you go you? This isn't funny!"

The man cursed, nervously looking around his perimeter again before looking over the wall to peer down. His eyes widened in surprise as he saw his dead comrade and a grinning Faolan.

"O-" he didn't even have time to say a word as in one quick moment he joined his deceased comrade on the ground as well, gurgling on his blood uselessly before the Arbitrator slammed her own knife into his eye.

The woman rolled her eyes at the Brontian as she dragged the two corpses closer to the shadows and Ioriel climbed up to join him.

Together, the two of them stalked the other two sentries on this side of the wall. They were ignorant of what had happened, too engrossed in the middle of their conversation when the two barged in rudely.

"Guns or blades." the heretic asked his buddy, the man rubbing his chin in thought.

"Well guns are good for shooting and uhhh blades be good for stabbing." he said, thinking really hard.

"Everyone knows that you imbecile. I'm saying which is better."

"Ugh this is a hard question! I'll have to think on it for a while." the man grunted, sighing as he rubbed his helmed head in thought.

"Oh that old question? Easy." Faolan spoke up, "Blades all the way."

The two heretics nodded, looking at him appreciatively before resuming their conversation. Then they paused.

By the time they realized, it was too late as Faolan drew a red smile across the neck of the right one and Ioriel covered the left one's mouth before stabbing a knife through his back and into his heart.

They both began convulsing, gurgling their last breaths before going still. With a grimace, Ioriel extracted her knife, shaking her hand free of the blood that coated it while she laid the corpse down. She resisted the urge to lick the lifeblood she had liberated from this sack of filth, shaking her head of such notions and blinking in confusion. Faolan meanwhile nonchalantly tossed his body over the wall, where it landed into a few bushes with a tumble.

"Sorry." he chuckled quietly as the Arbitrator gave him a glare from down below.

She scoffed and moved that corpse too, only to hear another tumble as Ioriel misjudged her own strength and accidentally let her body tumble over the edge without control. There was a beat of silence as the three strained their ears for any possible alarms, and when none were raised, Ioriel sheepishly flashed the Arbitrator a nervous smile.

"I'm beginning to regret this mission..." Megaera scoffed in annoyance as she dragged the other corpse into the shadows.

With a grunt, she began climbing up and soon she too joined the three of them on the walls. They would have to move quickly, before the heretics began to grow suspicious of their missing sentries.

They scanned Harrowpoint from their new vantage point, taking great note of the watch towers that had the heavy stubber emplacements. They were shining lights periodically throughout the perimeter, though they thankfully kept clear of the walls themselves.

Likely believing their sentries to be able to raise the alarm quickly enough. Ioriel saw Magaera and Faolan share matching wolfish grins. They will show them the folly of their decision soon enough.

With a nod, Ioriel began creeping towards the leftmost watch tower with Faolan while Megaera went for the right. The two of them easily climbed up the tower silently, hiding from the gunner's gaze.

Ioriel whistled lowly, startling the heretic and allowing Faolan to strike from behind him.

"Wha-?" the man began to exclaim before Faolan covered his mouth and then slammed 16 glittering inches of monosteel through his throat.

With a dismissive spray of blood, he slashed the man's jugular along with most of his neck and let him gurgle into the ground helplessly before stilling in death.

Ioriel sighed to herself, rubbing her arms. The worst part wasn't the death itself but rather the satisfaction she got from seeing him die. And it left her disquieted.

"These animals deserve it." she thought, sighing to herself again as she shook the thoughts away.

"Let's go, with these positions eliminated we'll have an easier time remaining hidden and then extracting." Faolan told her, leaving the corpse behind as he began climbing back down.

She nodded, following after him quietly.

They repeated the process on the other side as well, climbing up silently before the doomed guard could notice anything amiss. Just in time too as the cultist was beginning to notice his friend missing before he didn't have to ponder on it anymore as Ioriel stabbed him through the heart.

Soon they rejoined the Arbitrator by the walls again, the woman leaning against rampart as she dabbed at the bruise on her cheek. The bloodied blade in her hands told them her opponent was definitely in a worse condition.

"What a tragedy to see such flawless beauty be marred so milady." Faolan commented, causing the Arbitrator to scoff and Ioriel to crack a grin.

"Let's just focus on the mission Brontian." she retorted, rolling her eyes at the pair.

They nodded, and Ioriel eagerly followed their lead as they hopped down and infiltrated the camp proper.

With their perimeter defenses gutted, that meant most of the heretics were blind. Aside from the occasional patrol, they would be utterly ignorant of their presence. Just the way they liked it.

The three of them split up, taking out lonely patrols and hiding their corpses while avoiding others they could not eliminate. When they could they began pilfering the heretic's stockpiles and booby trapping the rest with explosives rigged to explode.

Magaera expertly began to sabotage their equipment they could not carry or use while Faolan separated and assassinated the various guards that were patrolling through the outpost. He made sure to do it quickly and quietly, as they hardly wanted their comrades to notice their now dead friend's disappearance now would they?

Ioriel for her part picked up an uncomfortably spiky backpack and grimaced as she shook the pack, watching in disgust at the dripping blood and gore.

Dropping it back down, she began rummaging through the pile before picking up a smaller rucksack. She tore off the Chaos iconography that covered it's original, defaced Aquila before taking it for her own. She felt dirty just having it on, but she could hardly carry everything just on her.

Ioriel slipped it on and began scurrying around, avoiding patrols bigger then one and redirecting them whenever possible. Leading them away with distractions and working in tandem with Faolan to take them out when their paths crossed.

She slit the throats of any unlucky to find themselves alone, skulking behind them silently before moving forward and dragging a sharp blade across their necks. It was there that she felt the most in her element, a semblance of her being again even as she assassinated them properly. She made sure not to let them bleed too much as she dragged their bodies aside.

She ignored that small part of her that wept at the idea of her taking a life. She firmly blocked out that even smaller part of her that demanded she make them suffer before they died.

She past by a fire place and stopped for a moment as her stomach rumbled again, her mouth salivating as she gazed at the meat cooking on the fire.

She leaned in, planning to take a nibble before pausing, and then groaning as she grabbed at her head. The meat was obviously cannibalistic in nature, with the general shape of the arm noticeable...and yet Ioriel felt like she didn't care.

"Just a little bite..." she thought, getting closer.

"Just a small morsel." she thought hungrily, drooling lightly as she smelled it's aroma before blinking at her actions.

She shook off her temptations and narrowed her eyes at the demented foodstuffs.

"What in Hel's name was I thinning?" she thought in disgust.

She was tempted to knock it over and spoil it, but the sounds of the heretics returning caused her to melt back into the shadows before they could spot her.

She could not deny the slight envy in her as she listened to them joyously tearing into their meal however and she hurriedly tried to block out the smell of charred flesh. She felt shaken and licked her now very dry lips in worry, trying not to think about it too much.

She was very hungry all of a sudden and she tried to ignore that gnawing pain in her.

She sighed tiredly, before shaking her head and looking around cautiously before making her way towards a stockpile. It was filled to the brim with some supplies and she was eager to see if there was anything useful.

While rummaging through a few crates and sacks carefully for medical supplies and only finding what she identified to be garbage and hallucinogens, Ioriel picked up a distant conversation.

She ducked low and avoided a pair of guards that past by, the both of them in an animated conversation that she quickly listened in on.

"Did yer 'ear the rumors mate?"

"Rumors bout...?"

"Are yer daft ya fooking grox fer brains?"

"Blow it outta yer ass ya bloody bastard. Jus' tell me."

"They say the main camp's been gutted!"

"No shit?"

"Yeh matey, had a real bad prison riot yeh? A good 'alf of the prisoners got free of their chains and slaughtered a third of the guards escaping. This pissed the overseer off rightly so. They say ole Chainwhipper's on a bloody rampage, going into a frenzy."

"Ooooh I wouldn't wanna be ole chainy. The Beastmaster shan't be 'appy the rat bastard let a riot happen under 'is nose. Especially if 'alf the livestock escaped."

"Didn't just escape either. They raised some mighty 'ell and whatnot, ransacking the armories and destroying some parts of the fortress."

"Shit really? Ooooh then I really really don't wanna be ole chainy now haha! And them buggers that escaped, how many survived? They a danger?"

"Hah! As if brother. Those weaklings were easily slaughtered by our comrades. Though I hear a few scattered groups escaped the fighting."

"No shit? Well they won't last long! Hahahaha!"

"Exactly brother! Hahahaha."

The kunoichi frowned as the cultists she was eavesdropping on began cackling inanely. Their conversations soon reared over to the latest whores they fucked and the fun they had running down defenseless peasants and monsters.

She growled angrily and began stalking them, feeling righteous fury at the scum in front of her. She began skulking closer to them, and was about to slam her dagger into their throats when Faolan stopped her.

The man grabbed her arms and held them steady before she could hop from the shadows and slit their pathetic throats.

"Patience kunoichi. Stop and look." he told her firmly, causing her to pause.

The momentary burst of focused anger she had was interrupted and she blinked as she realized she was about to follow the pair into a tent.

Which would undoubtedly be filled with dozens of heretics. All of whom would be alerted to her presence immediately.

"I understand your anger Ioriel." Faolan told her, causing her to sigh.

"It's been a tough few days..." she muttered, causing the Brontian to clap her on the back gently.

She frowned at him and sighed. Usually she's more composed, calm. But lately she's been feeling exceptionally raw and inflamed. She wanted to fight.

"You're still here aren't ya?" he said lightly, "Chin up Ioriel, let's finish this."

He gave her a feral grin as he held a detonator in his hand. Ioriel returned that grin with a similar one, the idea of making the amalgamation cultists pay an alluring idea.

The two of them pilfered the camp some more, picking up ammunition and medicine, as much as they could carry. The foul provisions and water supply of the heretics they were adamant about avoiding. Faolan also sported a rucksack that was packed to the brim with guns, blades, ammunition, and various explosives while Ioriel carried the medical supplies.

Just as the pair found and reunited with Magaera again, the alarm was raised.

One of the cultists had found a corpse hidden in a shallow drain and alerted the rest of his comrades. Roused from their sleep, the heretics began to fan out as they panicked at their dead and began angrily looking for the infiltrators. A flare was shot up into the sky and began to light the area all around them.

Perfectly illuminating their presence as their biggest advantage, the dark concealing shadows, were snuffed out.

"Intruders! We got focking intruders in the camp!" shouted one heretic, the man waving a falchion at the three.

A few others began to angrily close in on them, waving melee weapons while a scant few tried to get a bead on them with inaccurate stubber rounds or local bows and arrows. Faolan unsheathed his blades and in one quick motion, expertly slashed an arrow apart to fly past him harmlessly.

"Well time to go!" the Brontian snarled as he began making a run for it, the two women hot on his heels as the heretics gave chase.

Bullets whistled by their heads and blades flew by as well, though all of them missed their marks. Arrows and bolts were fired next, though just like before none found their mark, especially once the flare dimmed out before dying and the world was pitched in darkness again.

A heretic got out of his tent just in time for Faolan to messily liberate his head from his neck in one clean stroke. His friend was blinded by the sudden spray of blood and Magaera slammed her knife into his stomach while he was distracted.

Kicking at his legs, she knocked him to the ground while disemboweling him at the same time. Ioriel let out a snarl as she slashed at the next one's throat that came out hastily, one hand carrying a lantern while the other held a firearm. She knocked his gurgling body back through the tent flaps and into his comrades who were following behind him.

She grabbed his lantern in one clean motion, slamming it against the ground and then tossing the burning mess onto the tent, watching as it caught fire and lit up spectacularly. The panicked screams of the heretics inside made her smile devilishly before she shook it off, the now very angry sounds of the heretics behind her catching up.

They left behind the sounds of terrified men who caught fire and the brutal promises of retribution and horrific torture of their pursuers. Another flare was shot up into the sky, illuminating the surroundings and the Arbitrator turned around and fired a few potshots, wounding most and killing some. Their return fire whistled by and narrowly missed her, causing the Arbitrator to duck into cover briefly.

Their brontian assisted her, unclipping a frag grenade and tossing it at the cultists. It exploded mostly harmlessly, most of them having taken adequate cover but it did its job as the cultists hid. Magaera got out of cover and they began springing at the wall.

Ioriel watched as Faolan made a leaping jump that had him rappel the walls with ease and jump to the other side before disappearing from sight. Both Ioriel and Magaera were impressed and sought to not be outdone by him, with Magaera running along the wall quickly and dexterously before jumping over while Ioriel easily made intricate hops and flips to get over.

"Hah show offs." Faolan snarked when they landed, before he thumbed the trigger on the detonator.

BOOM!

A massive explosion was triggered, one that lit up the darkness again with a bright light that vaporized any heretics nearby and cooked off the ammunition set next to it as well. Numerous munitions began ricocheting everywhere, wounding and killing heretics.

Another similar explosion was triggered as well, with most of the camp being engulfed in flames as panicked heretics began running around, some burning alive while others became a red mist of gore. The night came to life again, this time with the songs of screaming cultists crying out for their gods to save them as they cooked to death while others began putting out raging fires.

In the chaos of it all, the three of them victoriously scurried back into the night with ease, with the blind cultists practically incapable of spotting them.

They opened the gates of their camp and began fanning out, desperately trying to look for their infiltrators while the rest tried to control the flames spreading throughout the outpost. A few more foolhardy ones ran after them into the wilderness, hollering and shouting battle cries and promises of retribution. Most of these bands ran wildly in the dark, following after the vague direction their attacks fled in.


The three of them ran quickly, leaving behind the burning outpost with a sense of vindictive glee and joy. Though Ioriel was only under their tender mercies for but mere hours compared to the Imperial's extended stay, she still absolutely loathed the cultists.

They were evil men, living vile lives for even more repugnant deities. She remembered some of the horrid things they have done and to see it have grown much worse was extremely worrisome. So much has changed in so little time and that left her anxious for the future. Especially now...

Still, she breathed in deeply as she tried to calm herself down. Her racing heart was one thing, but that gnawing hunger inside of her was another as well. Always prodding at her mind and soul, as if tempting her.

She felt disconcerted and sighed as she caught her breath. Her allies were just as fast, experienced even as Faolan let out a tired chuckle while Magaera even cracked a small smile.

"Well...that went off without much trouble eh?" Faolan said smiling, "The God-Emperor truly smiles upon us today we humble servants."

"Don't get too hasty now Brontian, we haven't made it back yet." sighed Magaera.

Ioriel was too excited and pumped up on a sudden energy that she could barely respond, merely nodding her head at them.

The sounds of their pursuers echoed behind them brought them out of their musings and the three of them exchanged nods.

Faolan let out a few whoops and hollers of his own, while Ioriel and Magaera hid by the foliage. When the cultists burst out from behind a few trees, they immediately opened fire on Faolan, who took cover behind a tree of his own.

A few rushed ahead with their melee weapons while the rest hid behind trees and whatever bits of cover they could find.

So focused they were on the Brontian that they forgot about the two women with him, something they remedied quickly.

A gunshot rang out again and a heretic dropped dead with a bullet through his eye. His two friends nearby moved to react but they got put down just as fast as the Arbites stood up from hiding, autopistol barking out more shots.

Ioriel covered her flanks by slitting by the throat of another heretic that was getting a bead on her, a moment's breath away from letting loose with his shotgun. Instead she forcibly faced him towards his friend, peppering their position with scattershot and injuring them.

Magaera finished them off when they collapsed on the ground flailing, blowing holes into their heads and scattering their brains.

The Brontian expertly cut apart his own opposition, parrying a heretic's crude thrust and slashing his throat out with a riposte. He tripped another cultist when he tried to jump on him and dodged another who slammed a heavy sledgehammer onto the ground, shattering his friend's head in.

"Thanks!" the Brontian taunted, before he flicked his wrist and sliced into the man's hands. He severed the appendages easily and then slammed his blades into the heretic's opened mouth when he tried to scream.

With a satisfied smirk, he extracted his blade in a shower of blood and the corpse collapsed without a sound save for a gurgle.

"Status!" Magaera exclaimed to them both, causing Faolan to scoff.

"Green as grass and mean as an ork." he guffawed, kicking at one of the corpses.

Ioriel grimaced as her side ached but she felt good and muttered, "I'm okay."

"Good." the arbitrator responded, "Would have been a shame to do all this and both of you got injured."

"Well would ya look at that Ioriel, the arbitrator does care." Faolan said with a smirk, causing Ioriel to giggle lightly.

The arbitrator scoffed, giving him a look of dismissal while walking over to the corpse Ioriel took out. She bent down and picked up the heretic's shotgun, giving it a cursory glance before tossing it towards the Brontian, who furled his brow in question.

"We can ill afford to be picky Brontian. Let's salvage whatever ammunition and weaponry we can from these bodies and consecrate them back at camp."

"I'd prefer a good blade over a gun any time but I get what you mean." Faolan noted, shouldering the weapon using it's dirty strap.

Ioriel clumsily caught the arbitrator's next item, an absolutely filthy looking stubber coated liberally in soot, grease, and other stains she certainly did not want to think about.

"Uhhh I'm not too good with firearms..." she meekly began to say but Magaera just scoffed.

"Don't care kunoichi. We need all the weapons we can get." she stated with finality, picking up a few more blade and tossing them at Faolan.

Ioriel couldn't help but sweat in exasperation and bafflement as the arbitrator clearly threw them blade first at the man. The Brontian didn't seem to mind though, catching them in mid air and looking like he was having the time of his life dancing with possible maiming and death. These imperials were truly strange.

She clutched the unfamiliar weapon in her hands with unfamiliarity, unused to handling such weaponry. It felt bulky and clumsy to use and she held it like one would a bomb.

"Hmmm...yeah...not touching that one, just look at it!"

"...hmmm this one's too unwieldy..."

"Hah check out this one Arbitrator!"

"Is this made out of pipes?"

She held up a rifle that was truly pathetic looking, held up together with plastape and prayers, the dirty pipes and tubing making for a truly depressing looking stubber.

"Yep. Complete garbage." Faolan commented, letting the gun drop and watching it break almost in two, "I think we're done here."

"Quite. Let's move." the Arbitrator agreed, especially as they heard more voices behind. Faint sounds that were steadily getting more audible.

The three of them ran back towards their temporary camp with haste, adrenaline and excitement fueling them despite their heavy load. As they ducked under twisted trees and over gnarled roots, Ioriel had only one thought.

"Please let things get better."

She dearly hoped for it. Begging for it even in her mind, for life has been cruel and ruthless lately and she was anxious about the days to come. Especially with these imperials and especially with the amalgamation cultists and their foul masters.

It's just too bad that hope would just be the first step towards disappointment.

The first of many.


Harrowpoint, Osaros Region

The ruined camp was still smoking even in the coming morning. There were numerous new craters throughout the outpost and corpses haphazardly strewn about, still lying on the ground where they had fallen during the chaos of last night.

The surviving cultists were lined up in the middle, about a score or so, shivering in fear and trying not to squirm as their camp overseer sniveled pathetically.

"T-They came in t-the dead of night m-milord!" the man squeaked, kneeling before a towering man, "T-They s-struck without warning a-and left just as q-quickly!"

The heretic towering over him was not amused, a man dressed in simple fatigues and corrupted, twisted crimson flak armor molded in the likeness of a ribcage, with faint orange highlights.

On his face he wore a rebreather shaped like a leering skull and a spiked dark helmet, with additional iron thorns molded so that they went inward and wrapped around the head like a crown.

Right now that head gazed at the overseer with rage and contempt as he kicked the squeaking man over onto his back.

The overseer coughed raggedly and then began grimacing as a heavy black iron boot stepped on his throat, constricting his breathing.

"I'm surrounded by fools. Incompetents and fools." he spat, looking at the overseer with contempt, "Three people? THREE?! You could not stop three maggoty putrid weaklings from ransacking this camp and making us all look like UTTER FOOLS?!"

"P-Please!" the man wheezed, "M-Mercy!"

Crack

Squelch

Instead the man ground his boot on the man's neck even harsher, crushing it underfoot and causing the man's eyes to bulge out as he gurgled uselessly.

He then looked towards the rest of the ashen faced cultists, all sweating profusely with fear.

"Bad enough that we let a couple of fucking feudals and corpse worshipers escape, now we let this fucking happen too!" he snarled, taking out his personal joy and creation.

A demented, chain iron whip, one with multiple jagged barbs and hooks all created to ensure maximum bloodletting and flaying.

He cracked it in the air hard, the whiplash causing the cultists to squirm.

"I will not and cannot allow this fucking groxshit to continue any longer!" he screamed hoarsely, cracking his whip against the back of another cultist.

The barbed chain tore into the man's back horrifically, gouging out skin and flesh and flaying it down to the bone! The man struck by it let out a strangled scream, falling down onto his knees and clawing at his back in agony.

"GET OUT THERE!" the towering man shouted, "Get out there and find them! I want these maggots to suffer!"

"Y-Yes milord!" the rest of the cultists responded dutifully, eyes wide with fear as the angry man cracked his whip again and again.

The fallen cultist passed out soon enough, his screams dying down as his back became a ruined mess of blood and gore, naught but bloodied bone left.

"Come brothers! We will find these craven rats and feast on their bones!" the man shouted, and behind him his own troops marched forward.

Two ranks of traitors armed with corrupted flak armor and a mixture of stubbers, lasguns, and heavy weaponry. Leering, twisted skull motif masks of black iron stared at the unnerved cultists and rabble, stranded or converted, who averted their gazes fearfully.

The Blood Pact have arrived and they will have their reckoning.


Koyoi's Sidestory, Onogoroshi


"They shall be my finest warriors, these men who give of themselves to me..."

-Emperor of Mankind


Kiyotama Prefecture, Zipangu

It has been weeks now since ravenous beasts and yokai have suddenly manifested in their beloved home. Zipangu was practically under siege overnight, with countless prefectures being ravaged by monstrous creatures out of nightmares. It was a time of horror, hardships, and misery.

Amanomiya Koyoi frowned as she skulked along the roof of a gutted home. The cause of it was below her, messily crunching on viscera and bones of the unfortunate inhabitants.

It was a hideous thing, with corpse pale skin and four different bulging arms that burst apart to reveal wiggling, clawed tentacles or sharpened bone blades. It was littered with putrid boils and spikes, a natural defense that forced the Monsterslayer Corps that had hunted this prior to her to keep their distance.

It had no less than five different heads spread bizarrely over its body, two where the "head" should be and three on it's back, with little rhyme or reason. With bug-like eyes to see everything with clarity and mouths packed with fangs that would rend a grown man to ribbons in seconds.

This thing was called the Scourge of Kiyotama, and it has easily devoured entire villages by its lonesome and survived even against the mightiest monsterslayers. Should Koyoi fail in her duty tonight, she would be the 27th monsterslayer to fall against this beast.

The heads on the back were the reasons why Koyoi was sitting so still. It would do little to draw attention to herself. The beast had few blind spots, and even fewer weaknesses, and she had only her katana and yumi.

There was little she could. She knew that the beast's skin was as hard as stone and its strength was as monstrous as it was voracious. What could she do against this beast?

Pelt it with arrows and watch as it shrugged them off and ran her down? That was the way many a master archer had met their end, becoming dinner for the monstrous being. Even now Koyoi could see the arrow heads embedded in it's back, and yet it gorged on it's meal no worse for wear, as if those wounds were but insect bites.

Slice it with her katana and watch in disbelief that her blade would barely faze it? That was the fate that many a swordmaster had suffered as well, being torn apart and messily devoured.

The beast was capable of shrugging off even the worst of the wounds it received, and was utterly unrelenting in it's attack. It was deceptively quick for its size, and the moment one made a single mistake, it struck mercilessly.

It still bore the scars of its last encounters, ragged strips of scar tissue stitching together all along its chest. A katana was still buried hilt deep into its side.

The monsterslayers before her have all been veterans, masters of their craft. She was but a novice compared to them, and yet here she was and they were not. She really did not have much of a chance.

But Koyoi had a duty, and she had to fulfill it to the very end. If not for duty, then she would do it for the fallen. She watched warily as it continued it's grisly meal, gorging on her people.

If blades and arrows did not work as well, perhaps something else would. She opened a small box and sprinkled it's contents onto her katana, and then in a pouch in her hands.

If this beast was resistant to cold steel, then perhaps a bit of divine power could tip the scales.

Her katana glowed a bright violet hue, tinged with blue while the pouch began smoking. With calm precision, Koyoi threw it down atop it's back, striking when the heads were too engrossed in their meal to react in time.

The powder burst open and deposited it's poisonous load, a special flower concoction along with the divine confetti that immediately caused the beast to screech in anger. It sizzled on it's skin and burned the three heads on the back, blinding it's numerous eyes temporarily.

As it wailed and writhed on the ground, meal forgotten, Koyoi jumped down with her katana in tow. With a downward slash, she slammed into the ground and brought her katana right down on the base of its necks!

With a clean stroke she severed one of it's frontal heads cleanly off, but the other was only messily carved in half. It's skin was tough and with her momentum lost, she jumped back quickly to avoid it's wrath. If it's cries were loud before, now it was thunderous as it howled, enraged at the loss of one of its heads.

She swiftly dodged a lightning fast strike from one of it's arms, the slimy appendage smashing apart the wall of the house. She hissed as she retaliated again, slicing at the appendage and watching in grim satisfaction as she easily lopped off the appendage.

The satisfaction did not last long, and her victory was short lived as it swung with it's other arm. With a swift deflect, Koyoi was merely knocked backwards with a thunderclap instead of being splattered against the wall. She lost her footing and stumbled backwards, arms shaking and legs weak.

"S-Such power!" Koyoi thought, warily keeping her distance.

To her distaste, she nearly slipped on a pool of blood, the source being messy leftovers of what was likely the other inhabitants. Koyoi whispered a short prayer to the kami for them while watching the monster in front of her.

The beast was growling, it's remaining front head drooling as it gazed at her with animalistic fury. The severed stump of its second front head sizzled, as if trying to heal. It oozed congealed, corrupted blood that was more of a corrosive sludge then any true lifeblood of any living being.

Suddenly its missing appendage sizzled before it burst into two more, splitting apart to be fleshy whips. It swung with fury, causing Koyoi to duck underneath it's blow. It smashed against the wall and blew the weakened structure right out. Her eyes widened in alarm at the sheer power behind such a beast and quickly dodged it's next flurry of strikes.

The home groaned, beams creaking as it's stability suffered.

Koyoi took note of that before narrowly ducking underneath it's whips and deflecting it's other tentacles. She sliced the limbs off as quickly as she could, possessed by cold terror and sudden crystal clarity.

She was in a trance where she desperately deflected each and every attack sent her way. Her posture slipped and she quickly counter attacked before the beast could go on another rampage.

She sprung forward as it's many arms passed by her head, slicing at its limbs and lopping them off with precision. She disarmed the beast quite literally of half it's arms, the scourge's howls causing it to thrash around wildly. It's wild flailing nearly caused her to be crushed underneath it, so she was forced to dodge backwards. The grassy ground had long since turned into upturned dirt and mud from where blood had pooled. They sucked at her feet and made moving hard, but it also made the scourge more clumsy as well.

Slowly, the power from the divine confetti began dissipating, it's mystical powers flowing off her katana like water. She deflected one last time and was knocked through the walls, her katana now simple steel again.

She coughed up a bit of blood as she slammed through two layers of walls and finally onto the ground outside, on the other side. The house began creaking as it's walls and supports gradually broke down, and Koyoi developed a plan.

She sprinkled some more confetti onto her blade, the gleaming steel becoming imbued with a luminescent violet hue as it was given divine benedictions.

She then took out a small blue candy, biting down and adopting a quick stance to gain it's blessings and benedictions. The spiritfall will help her endure its savagery.

The beast before he tilted it's head like it was in thought, or perhaps it was amusement. Koyoi had heard the scourge was capable of incredible cruelty.

The foul beast ducked it's head low, like a predator stalking its prey. It circled around her slowly, as if taunting her and Koyoi kept her guard up, tense and ready to move.

Finally it struck, darting forward like a speeding arrow and she gritted her teeth as she narrowly deflected its attack. Her posture was beginning to wear down from its constant attacks and she hissed as she struggled to desperately fend it off.

She ducked underneath its wild swings and deflected the ones she couldn't dodge. Finally, the moment was here and she quickly dodged again, the foul appendages absolutely demolishing the walls it struck.

Koyoi smiled to herself as she immediately began running, causing it to screech at her angrily. Then, the hole began to freak loudly.

Too late did it realize that Koyoi had led it deeper into the collapsing building and the moment it realized it, the walls gave out.

With a resounding crash, it toppled down with a mighty rumble, burying the scourge underneath all the rubble. It's furious, demented shrieking was interrupted with a resounding crash.

Koyoi gasped, breathing in harshly as she struggled to control her exhaustion. She kneeled on the ground, holding her katana tightly as she tried to control her breathing.

It was over. The beast was crushed underneath the very home it destroyed and now all Koyoi had to do was to finish it off-

Pain. A sudden agonizing spike of pain as an eldritch tentacle the size of a finger burrowed itself through her side.

She held it with shock and horror, trying to get it to dislodge and even stabbing at it with her katana.

The beast roared as it practically exploded from beneath the house, parts of it crushed and flayed by shrapnel and shards from the collapsed building but otherwise looking no worse for wear.

Sensing blood it redoubled its efforts and Koyoi began to panic as she tried to think of a way to escape. It was useless however as the spikes appendage suddenly inflated, causing the monsterhunter to let out a wet gurgle as her side was suddenly dealing with a tumor sized intrusion!

The beast howled and she let out a scream of agony as it swung her up and down. She flew in the air and then slammed down onto the ground hard, before being flung away!

With a hard crash, she slammed against the rubble of the home hard. She laid in the rubble, clinging to life barely. She felt nothing but agony as her abused body laid lifelessly, her spirit broken.

She, as all the others have failed to kill the yokai, which was currently shuffling towards her victoriously, drooling on the ground with a disgusting putrid mess.

Even though she had come so close, even though she had trained all her life to fighting these beasts, she had failed. She failed to not only herself, but her family, her country, and her people. She had sacrificed her free will, her mind, and soul to fight the monsters, only to fail when they needed her most.

What a waste.

A small humorless smile crept on her face, as the realization dawned that for all her existence it's all been pointless. Might as well not have been born into this world and spared her sisters the squabble her family was undergoing.

But that's okay because it was all going to end in a few seconds from now when she was naught but a red paste on the ground. Food for some uncaring abomination.

That's when the wind caused some sakura flowers to fall off a nearby tree.

"Such a beautiful sight..." she thought, a bloody smile on her face.

Her eyes trailed the pallets, a nicer view to die to instead of the grotesque beast that was looming over her. Yet as she followed the path, her eyes widened when she saw what they landed on.

It was a tall giant, seven feet if she had to guess, towering above men and women alike. The entire body was covered in plates, big plates impossible for a normal human to wear. The armor was black as midnight, with cyan shoulder plates, and red paint on its "mouth" guard. A snarling visage molded in an expression of contemptuous snarl.

Over its plates, it wore some sode plates and between its legs was what appeared to be a kusazuri skirt, with the upper part of the helm being a Kabuto styled helm. Over its chest was an uncharacteristic Aquilla etched on, a glaring skull in the middle, and over the shoulders were pieces of cloth that showed strange markings

On the left side a black sakura tree on a red background and on the right a skull.

Its cyan eyes glowed and glared at the monster which had turned from her towards the titan.

"Is that...a samurai?!" Koyoi thought, grimacing as she shakily applied pressure to her bleeding side.

The armor and style certainly seemed that way and yet…

He was too big, too mighty looking, too inhuman.

It looked more like a man of iron, an automaton, that the ancient dwarves used to build in the Ages past. But this one seemed more sleek, imposing, dangerous.

"Ā" the giant spoke, its voice deep and filtered.

Face paling from not just blood loss, Amanomiya Koyoi felt a deep primal fear deep in her bones at the giant warrior's words.

"Kaosusupōn. Anata wa sugu ni kōtei no ikari o kanjirudeshou."

With a swift motion, he pulled out his katana. It was large...too large in fact. It would be more fit to call the blade a dai-katana, and yet he held the weapon as if it had no weight.

Bracing the sword he glared at the beast, "Prepare yourself Kaosusupōn, for the ten'nō's wrath is upon you…"

The two glared a beam at one another, the Yokai drooling and growling, while the Samurai held his stance.

A stray sakura petal danced in the air around before slowly landing on a puddle of blood.

The instant it did, the scourge let out a piercing howl before charging at its opponent, its many jaws opening up with mouthfuls of sharpened and jagged fangs while it raked at the air with its claws and tentacles.

The Samurai let out a furious battle cry as he rushed at the beast. The armor he wore looked clunky and heavy and yet the speeds that he moved in seemed impossible. Nothing that big should move that fast!

They were mere inches from one another, and Koyoi watched in fascination as the Samurai did not just slice at the Yokai, but instead punched it. The force behind the blow caused skin and bone to tear as the beast was stunned.

Using its weakness, he masterfully sliced several heads off with a speed her eyes could barely comprehend. The beast howled yet used one of its tentacles to wrap around the Samurai's leg, crushing it as tightly as it could.

The sounds of metal creaking and servos whirring was heard before the beast slammed him into a nearby pillar. The force of the blow would have shattered a normal human apart, turning them into mush due to the sheer force of the beast.

He was not a mere human.

Rising from the rubble, his eyes glowing with a cold fury he braced his katana again.

"It seems I underestimated you Akuma…" he spat.

The beast let out another howl before growing an endless stream of corrupted tentacles. The appendages reached for the warrior, who in response began slicing them off, dashing through the jungle of veins and thorns.

As he got close, a large tentacle rammed into the black warrior. A tentacle that the Samurai caught with his free hand and grasped firmly.

The abomination tried pulling back to no avail, as the warrior's grip began to draw blood. He chuckled before sheathing his sword and grasping the tentacle with both hands.

Then with a yell, he pulled back and swung the beast into a nearby statue. Bleeding and injured, it screamed again as it flew before crashing against through the cold stone with a resounding crunch.

Then with even more fury, he began dragging the beast into a circle, pulling it further and further into the circle. The abomination lost its footing and was being swung into a circle over and over until the Samurai let go, causing it to slam directly into a pond of holy water.

Screeching and smoking the best tried its best to crawl out of the pond, as its unholy flesh melted and its blood boiled. Koyoi grimaced as she saw the temple's holy water be fouled by the demented eldritch flesh and blood but she could not deny the satisfaction she got from seeing it be purified.

Pulling out the katana again, the Samurai held the blade in a praying posture. Holding it close to his face as he spoke reverently,

"Oh great and holy ten'nō' who sits upon the golden takamikura on the mountain of a million steps and great Khan who brings speed and virtue into the hearts of his sons, gives me strength to slay this Kaosusupōn. Oh, holiest of Shoguns and wisest of Kenja, give me might that I may show this beast's folly!"

A blue hue surrounded him, as lighting and flames of blue began to form around his hands. The cyan eyes glowed brighter and a large silhouette of an eagle superimposed itself on the great warrior.

"None shall escape your wrath, my father. None shall be away from your golden light my Sofu! FOR ALL THOSE WHO STRAY FROM HIS LIGHT-"

His katana ignited in a series of azure flames and lightning, and his aura was majestic! Koyoi briefly forgot her own agony as she gazed in astonishment.

"-SHALL BE DEALT WITH BY HIS SHADOWS!"

The giant rushed the beast, his speed incomparable to before, and slashed. A wave of charring heat burnt right through the beast, bisecting it messily.

It screamed louder than ever before as its body wasn't just burned, but vaporized, its skin cracking into charcoal and its fluids becoming hot steam.

Appendages burst like ripe fruits from the holy fire as the rest of its body became naught but sanctified white ash. The body fell apart and the Samurai waved his katana, cleaning it from the abomination's filth. The blood splattered against the ground, sizzling into a fine mist.

He then expertly placed back into his sheath, before turning back towards her, his icy eyes piercing hers.

"You were sloppy." the giant said to her bluntly.

Koyoi flinched at his tone, his strange helmet giving his voice a noticeably unnatural snarl. His aura was stifling, and she felt even weaker as it washed over her like a cloud. She stood up shakily from the ground where she had fallen to try and right herself.

"You have strength at least. Adequate."

His words seemed to give her strength as she stood more confidently, standing straight and defiant. Her wound was aching terribly but she would not show weakness in front of such a powerful warrior.

Just his presence seemed to invigorate her and she held her bloodied side tightly. The giant before her gave a low chuckle, before grasping at his helm and twisting it off with a hiss.

"For a baseline, you fight well girl. Tell me your name." the giant continued, revealing a distinctly oriental face with meticulously trimmed facial hair.

"Amanomiya Koyoi...or just Koyoi of the Amanomiya clan," she said slowly.

The dreadful feeling did not diminish and she winced as she stumbled over her words in front of this powerful warrior. If he noticed he did not show it as he bowed his head slightly.

"Koyoi of clan Amanomiya, I am Raijin, of the Emperor's Shadows Chapter." the giant, Raijin, said simply.

Koyoi bowed down, biting back a hiss of pain as she tried not to show her weakness. Raijin seemed impressed with her grit as he nodded, "Stand girl. You are injured."

"Yes...let me handle that..." she gasped, face pale as she grasped the healing gourd on her hip.

The bitter waters of the medicine never tasted sweeter to her lips than they did today and she let out a small sigh as her wounds began slowly closing up.

The giant seemed to narrow his eyes at her, frowning as he took note of the strange healing powers of the gourd.

"What was that?" he asked her, crossing his arms.

"Ahhh this? Just a simple healing gourd, all monster slayers have one. It is our lifeblood." Koyoi answered, holding up the gourd for the Astartes to see.

Raijin took the small item in his hand and rubbed hand over it, trying to get a feel for it. It certainly felt like the warp touched...but also not. It did not reek of corruption and instead felt like a warmth similar to the statues of the Emperor himself.

How perplexing.

"But what is it exactly?" he asked, distrustful of such an item without more knowledge.

Koyoi rubbed her chin in thought, thinking it over before saying quietly, "While I do not know the exact process, I know the gourds are filled with rejuvenating seeds that come from the holy springs of our temples."

She took back the gourd, swishing it around a little before clipping it back to her hip.

The giant nodded, his curiosity sated for now but not satisfied, as one could never be sure with things such as this. It was plausible, and he did just save her. It would be a shame to kill her so soon on suspicion alone.

He was going to move on when the girl reached to him, brushing her hand against his broad shoulders hurriedly.

"Hmm?" he raised a brow in question at the brazen monster hunter, who flushed but stood firm.

"What are you?" she asked, causing him to blink, "And how did you imbue your katana with such power?"

"Did you not hear me girl?" he said in a tone that was almost offended, "I am a Space Marine of the Emperor's Shadows!"

Then he narrowed his eyes a little at her last words, scoffing almost, "While that display was certainly...unorthodox, I can assure you girl that there is little sorcery involved. Simply our faith in the ten'nō'."

He said that last part bitterly, as if reliving past memories.

"Space...Marine…?" Koyoi blinked in confusion before narrowing her eyes, "Are you an Imperial? Those outsiders? Some would even say outworlders?"

"Well I am but a humble servant of his majesty's Imperium, so I am an imperial," Raijin confirmed, before thinking. He shrugged, "And yes I am also not from this world so I am indeed an outworlder."

He then frowned in confusion as he thought about the last few days he has been stranded in this world.

"You are the first baseline that I have met since becoming stranded here." Raijin began, "Where am I?"

"You are in the Kiyotama Prefecture, on the island of Zipangu." Koyoi answered for him, tilting her head in confusion.

The giant seemed perturbed, "What subsector am I in? Or the planet I am in at least? Everything here is so...primitive. Almost feudal."

"Subsector…? Planet…" Koyoi said blankly, the unfamiliar terms confusing her.

"What world am I on Koyoi?" Raijin asked firmly but gently, eager to get answers.

"You are in Zipangu like I said. If you're referring to the world you are in the physical realms?" Koyoi offered, though that only made Raijin frown.

"You do not even know the planet you live on...hmmm...what master do you serve Koyoi? And I mean above all, not your direct leaders but the true ruler…" Raijin asked, causing Koyoi to feel even more confused.

"The Chief God…? Or the Emperor…?" Koyoi offered, causing Raijin to raise his brow even further.

"Chief God? Hmmm, local dialect or superstitious…and an Emperor too. Do you serve the Imperium?" Raijin continued, causing Koyoi to shake her head.

"I do not serve an Imperium, I serve the Order. And I follow an Emperor, but he is dead."

Raijin felt a vein pop in his head and he sighed as he shook his thoughts away. He needed to be calm and collected.

"Explain." he said simply, causing Koyoi to nod.

"May we sit Raijin-sana?"

"Of course Koyoi."

The two began to walk calmly to a few rocks nearby, next to the remaining uncorrupted spring.

Taking a seat, Koyoi began to explain the state of things to the marine.

Zipangu was in the midst of a power struggle, one that just recently began to turn into a civil war the likes the country has never seen before.

With their god absent and most of the Order's upper echelons similarly silent, the Zipangu region began growing increasingly isolated in the last few months.

The lynchpin that blew everything over was the mysterious death of the Emperor, the one leader keeping the various territories of the country together.

With him dead and a weak heir in line for the throne, a power struggle began to occur as ambitious daimyos, now unchained by the Order and the Chief God, began to try and consolidate power for themselves.

The lynchpin was the blatant murder of the heir, the young boy Emperor talking with his Lord Regent in the gardens when assassins supposedly under the employ of an ambitious daimyo murdered the heir in a blatant assassination.

With their "leader" eliminated and no other heir in line next, it became a dash for the reminder to try and take the throne for themselves. Seemingly overnight, the various daimyo began to carve out their own fiefdoms in Zipangu, fighting each other fiercely.

"It was a disgrace...and our weakness became a festering infection from which foul sickness and monsters began to take advantage of…" Koyoi said glumly.

It was a premonition. Horrific monstrosities began manifesting into reality. Yokai and Oni, malevolent daemons and foul creatures began to come out of the darkness, skulking the lands and feasting on the flesh and lifeblood of the people, monster and human alike.

Which led to a horrifying new reality for the monster slayers. Now they didn't have to contend with dangerous but ultimately passive monsters they were used to, but genuine malevolent beasts that cared only for feasting on the blood of any living being they encountered.

There were even reports of cannibalism amongst such creatures. But worst of all was the sheer number of said creatures...and there was a startling rumor that they were born from the twisted heart of evil men.

Which was completely ridiculous, but Koyoi knew there was always an inkling of truth to rumors.

"Entire villages have disappeared once...and with that disappearance a sudden spike in the amount of abominations and yokai that ravage our lands…" Koyoi told Raijin, who hummed in thought.

"Then it was as I expected. The archenemy is here, and from what I'm understanding it appears they are using foul sorcery to bolster their ranks with gibberish chaos spawn."

Koyoi's eyes widened and she hugged her knees in sorrow at the thought, "So all those creatures I have been killing...used to be people…"

She felt horrible, but was surprised as the giant patted her gently on the head. It felt like she was getting smacked but she knew what he was trying to convey.

Probably.

"You did your duty girl. And believe me, killing them would be a mercy now." Raijin told her, before standing up.

"You have a potential, great potential girl. So I ask you this Koyoi of clan Amonomiya, will you join me in this mission to rid your world of the chaos infestation?" Raijin asked her, standing proudly and defiantly.

"Of course...Raijin-sensei." Koyoi said, bowing her head.

The marine laughed lightly, "Ahh who would have thought my first student ever would be a baseline girl on a feudal world."

The girl smiled, despite being confused at the strange terms he was using. Then she remembered something, rumors she heard that she once dismissed as just that. Rumors.

"Ahhh sensei." Koyoi began, "I believe what I will tell you next will interest you."

"Go on then." he nodded, listening intently.

"There have been rumors in the nearby prefectures that there was a noble giant, clad in golden armor who fought with fire and brimstone. A champion wreathed in shining gold." Koyoi began.

"Is that so? Golden armor huh…?" Raijin mused, "Fighting bitterly against the hordes I'm guessing."

"Quite. He was last reported to be in the Yugashina Prefecture, organizing the villages into militias to fight back against the ravenous beasts and yokai assailing them." Koyoi said, continuing her story as they walked along the road.

Towards their next objective. Investigating the reports of Raijin's possible comrade, who was likely as stranded as he was.


A.N:

Shoutout to quentin3655, who actually came to me with the premise and idea of working together and introducing marines. He wrote the combat scene with Raijin, including the soul blade one. I found the idea cool and we will expand on that more to justify such a thing later on.

The rest we more or less cowrote together. Also, neither of us are Japanese so if we royally screwed up the translation then just let us know hah

It was quite funny, I wasn't planning on introducing astartes any time soon but the snippets he had shown me convinced me to go "Fuck it, why not."

So combining my ideas and his together, we created this.

Plus he writes some kickass fics himself so I didn't need much convincing to get started on working together on this little sidestory project. So now...marines are here...on the other side of the world.

But hey, now we have a Zipangu POV and an Orderling POV too.