Warnings: violence, gore, foul language, nudity, sex, rape

"Speech."

'Thought.'

"Foreign language."


A cold wind swept across the rocky plateau, making Klaus Levantine shiver on his horse. It was still late summer according to the calendar, but as he had the displeasure to discover, winter comes early to the mountain region known as the Dragon Spine, despite being less than a week of distance from Feoh and its lush farmlands and forests.

The scholar adjusted his heavy coat and checked again his notes written on a leather-bound notebook, the result of years of meticulous study and extensive research, while trying to ignore the cold as best as he could. Klaus Levantine was definitely not an outdoor person. He was born with a frail body that was prone to getting sick, and despite being not even forty, his hair and mustache were already turning grey, making him look older than his actual age. Unable to become a knight, much to his father's frustration, he had thus spent most of his life surrounded by books and eminent scholars, becoming instead one of the most eminent academics in Eostia.

"This is the place," he said confidently to the woman sitting on the horse next to him. "The gate should be somewhere around here."

Claudia Levantine nodded and looked at the troops she had brought with them, a mix of Dawn Templars and soldiers from Geofu. "Split up and start searching the area. Report anything unusual," she ordered.

Like a well-oiled machine, the thirty men and women under her command did as ordered, leaving Klaus and Claudia alone. At first glance, it was hard to believe the they were married. Claudia Levantine was a tall woman, almost six feet tall, with a curvy body that was as strong as it was beautiful, blue sky eyes that radiated authority and confidence, and long wavy brown hair kept in a neat bun. She wore a thick blue coat over her enchanted steel armor, a masterpiece of elven origin engraved with protective runes able to protect its user from most attacks, while her head was protected by a metal headband with a pair of decorative wings, resembling the headgear of a Valkyrie. She was strong, brave, and confident, a sharp contrast with her husband's meek personality, and yet despite their different personalities and lifestyles, they sincerely loved each other and had been happily married for several years.

"How are you feeling?" Claudia asked quietly, looking at her husband with concern.

Klaus shivered a bit, but managed to give her a reassuring smile. "Well, this place is a bit chilly for my tastes, but it's still warmer than our last dinner with my father," he tried to joke.

Despite his good intentions, her expression saddened. Claudia was painfully aware that Klaus and Grave didn't have the best kind of relationship, and it hurt her to see how their bond became more and more frail with each passing year.

"After today, I'm sure Grave will be proud of you," she said encouragingly, squeezing gently his shoulder.

Klaus laughed mirthlessly. "My father? Proud of me? If only it were that easy," he said with a bitter smile. "The only reason he still tolerates me is because you're his daughter-in-law." He sighed. "Sometimes I wonder why you married me."

Claudia rolled her eyes. "Because I love you, dummy," she said before leaning toward him to kiss him gently.

Her caring voice and her soft lips vanquished instantly any insecurity Klaus had. "I'm a lucky man, uh?"

"And don't you dare to forget it!" Claudia said playfully, making him chuckle.

They remained in a comfortable silence for a while, simply enjoying each other's company, until one of her knights shouted to get their attention. "Lady Claudia! Lord Klaus! We've found the doors!" the younger woman announced excitedly, pointing at the entrance of a ravine cutting through the side of the mountain.

"Let's go Klaus," Claudia said, spurring her horse into a trot.

Shortly after, they reached the female knight and followed her down the ravine, until they reached what appeared to be a dead-end. At first Claudia was confused, but when she looked more carefully, a massive gate appeared seemingly out of nowhere on the grey rocky wall.

"A perception filter," she commented intrigued. "That's promising."

The double doors were massive, roughly ten meters tall and large enough to allow six carriages to drive side by side, they were made out of dark grey metal engraved with geometric patterns.

"Well, at least we now know that there's something else here other than rocks and lichens," Klaus said with cautious optimism. "All we need to do now is open this gate."

"Yeah... how exactly are we going to do it?" Simon, a young knight from Geofu, asked awkwardly after a few moments. "I don't want to sound irreverent, but these doors look heavy. Like, reaaally heavy."

The members of the expedition started exchanging nervous glances. Clearly, no one was thrilled by the idea of opening such massive doors using their muscles.

"Worry not. The civilization that build them was incredibly advanced," Klaus quickly reassured them with the same tone he used with his students whenever he taught at the Academy. "There should be an opening mechanism hidden somewhere nearby."

One of the scouts waved his arm to caught their attention. "I think I've found it, lord Levantine," Anton announced as he looked inside a crevice not too far from the doors. "I can see some kind of mechanism, but the wooden lever must have rotten centuries ago."

"Here, try using this," a female knight said, offering her spear to him.

Anton nodded his thanks and grabbed the spear, then lodged the butt of the shaft in the sloth that once housed the wooden lever and gave it a tentative pull downward. "Simon, give me a hand." The two men grabbed firmly the shaft of the spear and prepared to pull down the improvised lever. "Ready?"

"Ready," the young knight nodded.

"Alright. One, two, three!"

Grunting for the effort, they managed to pull down the impromptu lever, activating the complex system of cogs, counterweights, and pulleys hidden behind the rock wall. The ground trembled a bit and after thousands of years of disuse, the doors slowly opened with a loud groan of protest, revealing a dark tunnel that went deep underground.

Following Claudia's example, everyone except for Klaus readied their weapons, but the only things that came out were a gust of stale air and the faint distant sound of dripping water.

After waiting for a few tense moments, Claudia let out a subtle sigh of relief and lowered her guard a bit before addressing the only non-human member of their group.

"Theodor, tell us what's inside," she ordered to the half-elf mage garbed in blue robes. The mage lowered his hood, revealing a handsome, if slightly effeminate face framed by long silver hair that reached his shoulders. Claudia hadn't known him for long, but his magical talent was the only reason she was willing to tolerate his aloof and arrogant personality for the duration of the mission.

Theodor nodded once and extended his arm, summoning his familiar, a red-eyed raven that appeared out of a puff of dark smoke. As soon as the bird landed on his hand, Theodor brought the animal close to his face, closed his eyes, and whispered a spell under his breath. When the mage reopened his eyes, they were glowing brightly with magic, as he now saw the world through the eyes of his familiar. The raven cawed loudly and took off, flying into the tunnel without hesitation. Claudia knew from past experiences how useful such spell was, however, she also knew that as long as the mage and the familiar were connected, the caster remained completely unaware of their surroundings, making them vulnerable to enemy attacks.

Theodor sat silently on his horse for several minutes, before finally severing the spell and taking a few slow, steady breaths.

"What did you see?" Claudia asked after giving him a moment to recompose himself.

"The tunnel leads to a vast underground chamber full of ruins, lady Levantine. There's no doubt: they're Edenians."

"Yes! I knew it!" Klaus exclaimed, pumping a fist in the air.

Claudia smiled at her husband's enthusiasm, before quickly regaining her composure. "Alright. We're going in, four in a row. Lit up your torches and stay alert. We still don't know what we may find down there," she said, spurring her horse toward the tunnel. The animal huffed nervously, but a couple of reassuring pats and a few gentle words quickly calmed it.

Their journey underground proceeded smoothly and almost monotonous, with the only sounds coming from the hooves of their horses on the dirt road and the short quiet conversations that the members of the expedition would occasionally have among each other. Claudia tried to remain alert, knowing all too well the dangers of getting distracted while venturing into unknown territory, however, she found herself thinking about the nature mission and what its success would mean for Eostia.

Long before the war against the Dark Queen and the Seven Shield Alliance, when the first incarnation of the goddess Laurentia was still young, there was a great civilization formed by a multitude of races: the Edenians. Their empire covered the entire continent of Serenus, and under the wise leadership of the old gods, its people had thrived, achieving astonishing results in the fields of magic and technology that had yet to be replicated. This golden age of harmony and enlightenment lasted for millennia, until a catastrophic conflict of apocalyptic scale wiped out their civilization, leaving almost no traces of their existence, save for a few ruins and a handful of artifacts. Each discovery of a new relic from that distant past was always seen as extraordinary event and when Klaus finally located the position of one of their outposts after years of intense studies, Lady Celestine ordered Claudia to lead an expedition to go investigate. The leader of the Dawn Templars didn't know what they would find (A weapon? A spell? A long-forgotten prophecy?), but whatever it was, it would hopefully help them end this war and bring back peace to their land.

'Peace,' she thought with a sense of longing mixed with skepticism. She knew what peace meant, but like anyone else aside for the oldest elves, she had never experienced it. Since the moment of her birth, war had always been a constant element in her life, just like for the countless generations of humans that came before her. She tried to imagine it: a world where you could live without the constant fear of death and starvation; a world where you didn't have to worry about demons attacking your home in the middle of the night; a world where children would never be forced to watched powerlessly as their mothers and sisters are violated in front of their eyes; a world where the fields are not red with blood and the air is not filled with the agonizing cries of the wounded; a world where your dreams are not infested by the images of the people you failed to save.

"It must be nice," Claudia quietly said, wondering if she would ever see such future.

"Lady Levantine?" Helen's voice brought Claudia back to the present. Claudia's second in command was a stern woman with icy blue eyes and straight pink hair who had served with her since when they were both squires.

Claudia blinked, realizing that she had been lost in her own thought, before quickly recomposing herself.

"It's nothing. What is it, Helen?"

"I can see a light in the distance," the other female knight informed her. Claudia squirmed her eyes to adjust her sight and, just like the other woman said, she saw a faint blue-white glow in the distance.

"Lux crystals," Anton said aloud. "They're natural concretions that usually grow in dungeons or other places with unusually high levels of mana."

"Wow. How do you know that?" Simon asked.

"I used to be an adventurer when I was younger."

"Oh. Then what happened? Did you take an arrow to the knee or something?"

"No, I grew tired of risking my life to hunt down monsters and collect herbs without knowing when my next meal would come," the scout deadpanned.

"If you're here just for the money, why didn't you join the Kuroinu or another mercenary group?" another soldier asked.

"Vult's an asshole, and most mercs are just glorified thugs," Anton simply replied.

Claudia was glad that Maia wasn't here with them, or a fight would break out between the self-proclaimed queen of the mercenaries and the scout.

As they proceeded down the tunnel, the light of the crystals grew more and more intense, until it reached the same brightness of a cloudless full moon night.

"By the Goddess reborn," one of the Dawn Templars muttered breathlessly when they finally reached the end of the tunnel and entered what was probably the largest cave they had ever seen. It was massive, large enough to house a small city and with a ceiling so high that it was barely visible, even with the light provided by lux crystals covering its walls. But what really left everyone breathless were the ruins standing in the middle of the vast underground chamber, still proud and majestic after centuries of disrepair. They saw tall buildings connected with graceful bridges, splendid temples adorned with columns and statues of long forgotten heroes, imposing obelisks and massive domes made out of crystal and metal that seemed to defy the laws of physics.

"The lost city of Silent Vigilance," Theodor muttered in awe as an excited smile appeared on his usually stoic face.

"It's real. It's not just a legend." Klaus wiped away a few tears of happiness with his sleeve. "Ten long years of research finally paid off."

Claudia smiled proudly at him. "I never doubted of you."

"I know, my dear," he replied, returning her smile.

"Strange. I don't see signs of battle. It's as if the inhabitants had just abandoned this place," Helen said as she observed the ruins in suspicion. "Why would they do that, lord Levantine?"

Klaus was a bit surprised by the question, but nonetheless he was glad to answer it. If there was something that he loved more than acquiring new knowledge, it was spreading it.

"Unfortunately, we don't know much about the events that took place during the War of Broken Heaven, only that it ended with the defeat of the Primordial and the destruction of the Edenian empire."

"The Primordial?" Simon asked curiously. By now, everyone was paying attention to Claudia's husband.

"An ancient evil born out of darkness and chaos," Klaus elaborated. "Some people say it was the first demon to ever appear, while others think it was something far, far worse, maybe even a dark god. Whatever the truth is, according to the legends, his powers were equal if not even superior of those of the old gods."

"Was he really that dangerous?" the young knight asked nervously.

"Compared to the Primordial, Olga Discordia is just a child throwing a tantrum," Klaus said with utter seriousness.

The young knight paled and gulped nervously. He wasn't the only one, as most of the knights and soldiers showed similar reactions. Even Claudia found the idea of an enemy far worse than the witch queen of the dark elves rather disturbing.

"How was he defeated?" Helen asked.

Klaus frowned. "The legends talk about a great final battle, but as I mentioned, the details are vague and fragmentary. All we know for sure is that by the end of the conflict, most of the old gods had died and the few survivors left our world to move to move to a higher plane of existence. As for the Edenians, well, all that's left of their civilization are a few ruins and a handful of artifacts."

'Is this the future that awaits us if we don't defeat Olga Discordia?' Claudia wondered grimly as she imagined Ken, Geofu, and the other fortress cities turned into piles of dusty rubble and broken bones, in a world dominated by monsters where humanity was just a fain memory. Claudia shook her head. 'No,' she thought resolutely, banishing such dark thoughts in a deep corner of her mind. 'As long as I breath, I will not allow that to happen,' she swore to herself with resolve.

"That seems to be a fortress," she said, referring to a series of building surrounded by a tall wall located at the outskirt of the city. "If there's anything that may help us, it's probably there. Let's go take a closer look."

"Shouldn't we check one of those temples first?" Theodor argued. "They probably have an archive full of useful knowledge."

Claudia looked at the mage, annoyed by his disregard for the chain of command. "One thing at the time."

"If we split into smaller groups, we'd be able to explore more locations," the half-elf insisted.

"My decision is final," Claudia sternly said, glaring sternly at the mage. "Am I being clear?"

Reluctantly, Theodor bowed his head. "Yes, lady Levantine," he said with a visibly frustrated tone.

Satisfied, Claudia spurred her horse to a trot and led the group toward the fortress. The large military compound was composed by several blocky buildings surrounded by a ten meters tall wall with what appeared to be artillery pieces placed on regular intervals on top of apposite platforms. The weapons resembled the bastard child between a ballista and a cannon, most likely powered by mana batteries to shoot energy projectiles at long range.

Simon whistled appreciatively. "Wow! Look at the size of those weapons."

"I bet they could easily kill a minotaur or even a troll with a single shot," Helen speculated. "It would be nice to have a few of them for our next battle against the Dark Legion."

"Indeed. It's a pity they're in such poor conditions," Claudia said, visibly disappointed. "They look like they would probably explode if someone tried to use them as they are now."

"Maybe Lady Luu-Luu might be able to repair them," Klaus suggested.

Claudia shook her head. "I doubt it. She's a genius, but she too has her limits," she said before quietly adding: "Not that she would ever admit it. If her body was the size of her ego, she would be a giant."


Meanwhile, several miles away

A certain halfling was humming contently while sketching her latest project when she suddenly sneezed without warning. Her hand slipped, drawing a thick line all across the paper sheet, ruining the project. "Oi! Who's talking shit about me?!" she shouted angrily at the air.


The rusted metal double doors of the gate were wide open, allowing the group to accede to the courtyard inside the wall. In the middle stood a massive rectangular pyramidal structure roughly two hundred by one hundred-sixty meters, constructed with three levels of terraces, standing almost forty meters high. Three monumental staircases originally led up to the first level, but the front and left staircase had crumbled, leaving the one on the right as the only external access to the first terrace. From there, a single staircase rose from the first to the second terrace, leading to the final and smallest floor.

It was a peculiar design in Claudia's opinion, but considering how advanced the Edenians were, they probably had a good reason for building the fortress in this way.

Located all around the ziggurat-fortress were a series of far smaller buildings with a single floor that probably served as barracks, stables, and warehouses, if the Edenians followed a similar logic to modern humans.

"Should we expect traps or protection spells?" Claudia asked to her husband.

"I don't think so. They're not mentioned in any of the diaries and books that I've read, but even so, they would be designed to react against dark forces."

Satisfied by his answer, Claudia dismounted from her horse and started shouting orders. "Helen, secure the perimeter and let the horses rest. Theodor, take a few people and explore the smaller buildings and the bottom floor of the fortress. My husband and I will take the upper levels."

"Yes, ma'am!" Helen said with a nod.

"As you command, lady Levantine," the mage halfheartedly replied.

Klaus and Claudia quickly made their way toward the last intact staircase and stopped at its base.

"That's a lot of stairs," Klaus commented after looking up.

"Indeed," Claudia calmly agreed.

"And we'll need to climb them if we want to get inside."

Claudia smiled with sympathy at him. "Look at the bright side. You always promise me you'd get more exercise."

"Where's the bright side?"

"Consider this a form of training."

"Oh, joy," Klaus sighed without enthusiasm.


A few hour later…

"Another hole in the water," Claudia sighed frustrated as they re-emerged on the first terrace. They had spent the last few hours walking through a maze of dark and dusty rooms and seemingly endless corridors that were often blocked with rubble, only to find a few books so old that they had crumbled into dust at the slightest touch, and a handful of broken artifacts that had completely run out of mana.

"We still have one floor left," Klaus said hopefully as they climbed the last staircase.

Once they reached the top, as soon as they stepped inside, they noticed a green light coming from the room at the end of the corridor.

"Stay behind me," Claudia instructed Klaus, raising her torch and drawing her sword, which promptly started glowing faintly with magic. The sword was a gift from Celestine and had been enchanted by the goddess reborn herself in order to make it the ultimate weapon against demons and dark powers.

They advanced cautiously down the corridor, passing a series of murals depicting ancient battles fought between demons and the coalition of races that formed the Edenian empire.

'Humans, elves, halflings, beastkin, and- wait. Are those…?' Klaus slowed down when his gaze fell on a group of particularly large figures covered in heavy armor and equipped with big swords, only to hurry after Claudia after she threw him a questioning glance.

The room was wide, with walls covered in mysterious texts and bas-reliefs like the ones in the corridor, but what really caught their attention was a massive sarcophagus located right in the middle of the room. Placed around it were four low marble pedestals, each topped by a crystal sphere the size of a human head. Three were still intact and glowed softly with a green light, however, the fourth pedestal had been toppled over, probably by an ancient earthquake, and its crystal globe now lied shattered on the floor.

Claudia and Klaus approached with caution the artifact, quickly noticing that while the sarcophagus itself was made out of dark stone, its lid was made out of clear crystal. A thick layer of dust covered its surface, so Klaus blew on it a few times and used his hand to remove some of the dirt. Once he was satisfied, the scholar brought his torch closer and looked through the crystal, only to gasp loudly in surprise and take a step back.

Alarmed by her husband's reaction, Claudia instantly assumed a combat stance. "What is it?!"

"It's alright!" Klaus quickly assured her, frantically waving his free hand in a calming gesture. "Sorry, I didn't want to startle you. I was just… surprised."

Mentally rolling her eyes at husband's antics, the woman put her sword away. "What have you found?"

"Not what, but who," Klaus corrected her, motioning for her to come closer.

Confused by his enigmatic answer, Claudia nonetheless joined Klaus beside the sarcophagus and followed his gaze, promptly widening her eyes. "By the Goddess Reborn…" Claudia whispered in shock as she stared at the massive armor-clad figure lying inside the sarcophagus. "Klaus, what- I mean, who…?"

"A Sentinel," Klaus explained with barely contained excitement. "One of the legendary super soldiers that fought during the War of Broken Heaven. According to the legends, each one of them had the strength and courage of a hundred men, and they were appositely created by the old gods to fight against the forces of evil."

"He must have been a really important individual to be buried here," Claudia commented, unable to look away from the armored titan.

Klaus shook his head. "This is not a tomb, my dear. This is an eternity chamber! The first to ever be found intact! Just look at it, it's exactly how Gideon the Sage described it in his books. Oh, if only my colleagues could see this! Just think what we could learn from-"

"Slow down, Klaus," Claudia interrupted him. "What exactly is an eternity chamber?"

The scholar stopped his excited ramble and blinked a couple of times. "Oh, right. Sorry. I got a little carried away by the magnitude of this discovery," he apologized before clearing his throat. "An eternity chamber is a magically-powered stasis device able to keep a person alive in a dormant state for a long period of time."

"How long are we talking about?"

Klaus stroked his chin and hummed thoughtfully. "Hmm, well, it depends. In theory, if you have enough mana and the spell matrix is not damaged, you could potentially wait inside one of these things for eons without aging one single day."

Claudia shifted her incredulous gaze between her husband and the time-frozen form of the Sentinel a few times. "You mean he's still alive? After all this time?"

"I'm not exactly an expert, but as far as I can see the device seems to still work properly," Klaus said, opening his notebook and starting drawing a quick sketch using a charcoal vine. "So, to answer your question, yes, I think so."

"That's incredible." The woman drummed her fingers on the crystal slab forming the lid. "Any idea why he ended up inside this thing?"

Klaus shrugged. "Who knows? Maybe it was their standard procedure to always have a Sentinel under stasis for emergencies. Or maybe he was separated from his unit when the city was abandoned and decided to hibernate himself waiting for rescue." Looking back at the Sentinel, the scholar's shoulders sagged a bit and his expression became sorrowful. "I can't even imagine how he will react when we'll tell him he's the only survivor of his entire civilization."

"Indeed, that-" Claudia did a double take at his words. "Wait. What are you talking about?"

"I mean, we can't just leave him inside-"

Claudia tapped him in the chest hard enough to make him wince. "No. No. Ooooh, no. Don't even think about it," she sternly said with a look that said 'I don't care how smart you are, this is a dumb idea'. "Putting aside that we don't know how to pull him out of this thing without risking killing him, what if he turns hostile the moment he wakes up? It's too dangerous. The best thing we can do is inform Lady Celestine of our discovery. She'll know what-"

She stopped mid-sentence when they heard the sound of a horn, soon followed by feral war cries and the clashing of weapons.

"We're under attack," Claudia said, as her face instantly became stern and serious. Gone was his wife Claudia, replaced by Lady Levantine, commander of the Dawn Templars and bane of Eostia's enemies.

Klaus widened his eyes in fear. "What?! How-?"

"That's not important. Stay here, Klaus," she curtly ordered with a tone that left no space for discussion. "And don't do anything stupid!" She added as she rushed outside to join her troops in battle, leaving her husband behind.


A few minutes earlier

Knight Deborah Spring was bored. You'd think that being the first to set foot in a lost city would be an exciting experience, but when all you have to do is guarding the entrance, it quickly loses most of its charm.

"This place gives me the creeps," one of the five soldiers under her command, a lanky redhead guy called Jack, said as he looked around nervously. "It feels like we're inside a giant tomb."

Anton, the former adventurer now serving as scout in their company, had decided to join them and was now smoking his clay pipe while sitting on a fallen piece of wall. "No shit. We're surrounded by ridiculously old ruins that are probably full of dead people," he calmly said.

"Thank you for the lovely image. You sure know how to reassure people," Deborah deadpanned, glaring at the man in hunter clothing.

Anton shrugged. "Mom said that lies make Celestine cry," he casually replied, secretly enjoying her irritated frown.

"What if there are ghosts here?" Jack suddenly asked.

'The only ghosts here are the ones that probably haunt Helen's vagina,' Deborah thought with irreverence. The woman was an excellent knight, but in her opinion, she was too strict. 'She really needs to get laid. Maybe then she would stop acting like she always has a stick up her ass.'

Anton sighed loudly in irritation. "Oh, for fuck's sake, would you just relax!" he exclaimed, already tired of the younger man's attitude. "Even if the place was infested by legions of lost souls, our commander is Claudia Levantine, bane of demons, monsters, and everything in between. And, if that wasn't enough, we even have a mage with us."

"Speaking of which, where do you think you're going, Theodor?" Deborah asked suddenly as she noticed the half-elf walk toward the gate.

"I'm tired of wasting my time here while there's probably a treasure of knowledge waiting in those ruins," the mage said dismissively, looking at her in annoyance when she blocked his path.

"And I've already told you, no one leaves without Lady Claudia or Helen's authorization," Deborah firmly said, irritated by the mage's attitude. Just because his father was a nobleman, he acting like he was above everyone else. Or maybe it was his elven heritage.

"I can protect myself," the mage smugly said with a condescending smirk, summoning a small fireball in his open palm.

"That's not the point, and put out that damn fire."

Theodor raised a brow. "Why? It's not like somebody will see-" He suddenly stopped mid-sentence, coughing up blood. He looked down and stared in disbelief at the bloody spearhead coming out from his chest before faceplanting lifelessly on the ground.

Anton swore loudly and reached for his sword, but just as his fingers reached the hilt, an arrow struck him in the chest, followed by a second in the neck. Deborah and the remaining soldiers turned toward the exit and saw several humanoid figures of different shapes and sizes emerge from the darkness, their beady eyes gleaming with malice as they charged at them with savage war cries. Child-sized red freaks with naked hairless bodies and yellow eyes known as imps; large, fat pig-faced creatures commonly called orcs; and tall dark-skinned demons with stubby horns and sharp fangs known as ogres. Members of the Dark Legion, Olga Discordia's demon army.

Deborah quickly grabbed her horn and blew it with all her breath to sound the alarm, before grabbing her sword to defend herself against the incoming demons, but it was already too late.

"Deborah! Look out!" the desperate call of the last soldier still alive was the only warning the young knight had before an ogre shattered her skull with a mace.


War Master Urguk walked through the massive gate with a content smirk, chuckling darkly as his war band poured inside the courtyard like a flood of muscles and malice, eager to fight the surprised humans.

They had been wandering aimlessly through a complex labyrinth of dark caves and tunnels for weeks, suffering the cold and humidity, and ending up eating the weakest demons of their warband, until one of his orcs had accidentally smelled the delicious smell of women. The demons had followed the weak olfactory trace, ending up inside a huge cave full of ruins and, best of all, fertile females.

Urguk looked down at the dead humans lying on the ground and scowled irritated when he noticed that one of them was a woman. What a waste of a perfectly fine breeder. By the time the fight was over, her corpse would be too cold and stiff to enjoy and only good as food. The chieftain scratched his butt and shrugged. Oh, well. There were still plenty of human females, all currently busy at fighting his warriors with such ferocity that made him grunt in approval. Their offspring would surely be strong, judging by the number of demons that had already been killed, including some of his fellow ogres. Their death was of no concern for him. After all, if they were too weak to survive fighting against a bunch of females, then they had no reason to exist at all.

His gaze fell on what he assumed was the leader of these humans, a tall beauty wearing a cape and an odd headgear that fought like a fearless tiger while shouting orders with her powerful firm voice.

He licked his lips in anticipation. Such a fierce creature. He couldn't wait to claim her and break her.


"Stay in formation! Don't let them get close!" Claudia ordered after slashing her sword across the throat of a particularly large orc. The pig-faced monster dropped his mace and reached up for his neck, trying in vain to stop the bleeding before collapsing on the floor like a sack of potatoes. Its brethren hesitated and took a cautious step back, allowing Claudia to grab by the shoulder a knight that had tripped on the ground. "On your feet, Beth!" She commanded, using her strength to easily hoist the younger woman back on her feet. "This fight is not over yet!"

"Y-yes, lady Levantine!" the other woman stammered, getting back in line with her comrades.

"This was the last group, ma'am!" Helen informed her.

"What about Deborah and her squad?"

"They didn't make it. They were the closest one to the gate."

"And Theodor?" She asked hopefully. His combat spells would be useful in this situation.

Helen simply shook her head.

"I see." Claudia grit her teeth in frustration, glaring hatefully at the demons in front of her. She had already killed three orcs and one ogre, but that seemed to barely make a dent to their ranks. The enemy outnumbered them at least three to one, and as if things weren't bad enough, Claudia's troops were scattered in small groups all across the courtyard when the attack began, forcing the paladin to lead a frantic rescue operation. "Alright! Everyone, fall back to the fortress!"

"What about the horses?" Helen asked, looking at the building they had chosen to use as temporary stable.

"Forget them, they're too far from us."

Led by Claudia, the knights and soldiers made a bee-line toward the fortress, cutting down any demon foolish enough to stand on their path. The demons were quick to recognize her as the main threat and focused their efforts on her, but the tall woman took full advantage of her superior equipment and training against them. Her body was like a hurricane, each movement elegant yet powerful, the result of years of hard work and dedication; her magic sword cut effortlessly through flesh, bone and armor with her magic sword, and her enchanted armor deflected hits that would have crippled a normal human.

However, despite their progresses, the woman couldn't help feeling that something wasn't quite right.

'It's… too easy,' she though as she cut in half an imp with her sword, just to see a tall steep pile of rubbles standing in front of them. 'How did we end up here? We were heading for the staircase on the left!'

"Lady Levantine! We're surrounded!" Simon suddenly yelled as he frantically raised his shield to block the attack of an ogre. Two spearmen quickly joined him and together they managed to kill the beast, but the demons kept coming.

Claudia quickly stepped on a piece of rubble to have a better view of the battlefield. True to his words, the demons had surrounded them, blocking their path to the stairs while pushing them toward the wall of rubble. Her gaze wandered on the horde until it eventually fell on what she assumed was the ogre war boss, a nine feet tall brute wearing a crude metal cuirass and leather pants, armed with an intimidating hammer the size of an adult man. Their eyes met and the ogre grinned at her with a mix of smugness and malevolence, and suddenly everything became clear. 'He put his weakest warriors in front of us, so that we would advance in a specific direction without even noticing it,' Claudia realized. It was a dirty, unethical tactic, but she expected nothing less from a demon.

"Helen, get the archers on those rubble!" Claudia ordered as she jumped off the rock block to rejoin the fight. "Everyone else, with me! Let's show these filthy beasts why we are Celestine's chosen ones!"

"For Eostia and the Goddess Reborn!"


From the top of the fortress Klaus could only watch powerlessly as the men and women led by Claudia fought against their lives against the demons. Despite their strength and courage, they were still badly outnumbered and it was only a matter of time before they were overwhelmed by the enemy.

His body shook with impotent rage as images of what the demons would do to his wife and the other women flashed in front of his eyes.

'I can't let that happen!' he thought vehemently. A part of him wanted to just join Claudia in the fight, but he quickly dismissed such ridiculous impulse. His body was weak and he literally had no combat experience. 'Think, Klaus. Think, think! There must be something I can do to help Claudia. But what? Call for help? We're too far from Feoh or any other Alliance outpost, and there's no one here that- oh.'

Klaus widened his eyes. He just had an idea. A crazy idea. It was probably the worst idea he ever had in his entire life.

'Desperate times call for desperate measures,' he thought as he ran as fast as he could back inside the room with the eternity chamber. He looked at the sarcophagus for a moment, then grabbed a piece of debris the size of a large brick and lifted it above his head.

"Please, let it work," Klaus prayed to Celestine and every deity he could think about before smashing the piece of rock against one of the crystal globes with all his strength. The sphere shattered on impact, releasing sparks and an acrid green smoke that made his eyes water. Klaus coughed and blinked to clear his teary eyes from the smoke, then repeated the same process with the other two orbs as fast as he could.

Once all the crystal orbs were destroyed, the scholar dropped the piece of rock and stepped back, looking with nervous anticipation at the sarcophagus. "Let's hope I didn't just destroy a priceless artifact for nothing," he muttered anxiously, staring with trepidation at the sarcophagus. "Come on, big guy. Wake up."

Then he waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And-

Klaus stumbled backward with a startled cry when the lid of the sarcophagus was suddenly punched across the room, shattered into several large pieces when it crashed down on the floor. The scholar pressed his back against the wall and grasped at his chest as if to prevent his fast-beating heat from bursting out. A thick cold fog poured out the eternity chamber, lowering the temperature of the room to the point that the man could now see his own breath.

Then, a large gauntlet emerged from inside the casket and grabbed firmly the edge of the sarcophagus.


The first thing that he noticed after waking up was the pain. His head was pounding, his entire body felt stiff and tingly, and he felt like he had sand between his joints.

Good.

If he could feel pain, then it meant that this was not a dream and, more importantly, that he was still alive.

Ignoring the signals of protests coming from every single nerve cell of his body, he grabbed the edge of the stasis module with a hand and sat up.

A series of runes quickly scrolled across his field of view, courtesy of his helmet, informing him of the conditions of his body and his armor. Everything seemed fine, so he dismissed the status runes with a simple thought and checked his surroundings. While his mind was foggy and his memory still hazy, he was quite confident that the room hadn't been in such state of disrepair when he entered the eternity chamber.

Just how long had he been asleep?

That thought was quickly put aside when he noticed something out of the corner of his eye. He turned sharply his head and saw a human male pressed against a wall staring at him in awe and fear. The mustached man was physically unimpressive and was garbed in thick winter clothes; he didn't seem to carry any discernible weapon and, according to his armor, his mana level was too low to use magic.

'Civilian, non-combatant, not a threat,' the Sentinel decided after assessing the situation in just a few seconds. The Sentinel stood up and stepped out the eternity chamber while keeping his eyes on Klaus.


Klaus had never been a particularly brave or confident man, something that his father never missed to remind him. However, if he wanted to save Claudia and everyone else, he needed to be strong, so he gathered all his courage and approached the Sentinel until they were just a few steps away.

The super soldier was positively massive, standing over seven feet tall and covered head to toe in an impressive suit of armor that despite being thousands of years old was still far more advanced than anything even the best halfling blacksmiths could create. It was composed by a black undersuit made out of some unknown material, covered by grey pieces of armor that covered every vital spot without compromising movements. The helmet vaguely resembled a great helm with an angular faceplate, with a pair of glowing triangular eye slits that gave the impression it was always scowling. The only noticeable decoration was the stylized head of a blue dragon painted on his right pauldron, but if it was a unit mark or simply a personal decoration, Klaus didn't know.

"Look, I know that you're probably very confused right now, but if you don't listen to me, we're all going to die!" The scholar exclaimed as he frantically gestured toward the exit. "There's a demon warband outside fighting against our knights! One of them is my wife! Please, I beg you, help them!"

The Sentinel shifted his gaze toward the corridor, from which came the noise of the battle taking place outside, before wordlessly turning back to the sarcophagus to retrieve two items.

The first one was a black boxy weapon that vaguely resembled a one-hand crossbow with a pistol grip. Its prod was short and stubby, without a visible string, and instead of a groove where a dart would be usually loaded, there was instead a short octagonal tube ending with a crystal lens. The Sentinel gave it a quick inspection, then he attached the device to his left hip without the need of straps or a holster.

'Magic or simple magnetism?' Klaus wondered as the armored juggernaut pulled out from the casket another weapon, a claymore-like sword the size of an adult human man. The black handle and cross guard were simple and practical, while the stainless metal of the blade emitted a faint blue cobalt shine.

The Sentinel gave a test swing with his sword before attaching it across his back, then looked back at Klaus, gave him a subtle nod, and ran out of the room at astonishing speed despite the heavy armor he wore.

He was outside within a couple of heartbeats, running down the stairs at what many would have considered reckless speed and reaching the first level terrace in record time. He saw that two of the staircases had collapsed, but instead of slowing down and heading for the one that was still intact, he kept his course and increased his already impressive speed. When his foot touched the edge of the terrace, he jumped, cracking the stone under his boots, and he let gravity take care of the rest.


Claudia grit her teeth as she parried the violent blow of an ogre's axe with her own blade, the impact so powerful that made her arms shudder. The brutish creature chuckled darkly and leered at her with unconcealed lust, flanked by two more ogres. Judging by the scars covering their skin and the mismatched sets of armor they wore, probably scavenged from their defeated opponents, these demons were more experienced than the average ogres, making them particularly dangerous opponents.

'First I need to kill the one with the axe in front of me. I start by wounding his arm, followed by a stab in the neck while he's distracted. Then I block the sword of the one on the left and- wait. What's this noise?'

Claudia looked up, just in time to see something big, grey and ridiculously fast jumping down from the first terrace, landing feet first on the back of the ogre in the middle, shattering its spine and killing it instantly. At the same time, without losing his momentum, the figure swung both arms outward, decapitating the ogre on his right using a large sword, while at the same time punching the other ogre hard enough to break its skull.

'Oh, Klaus, what have you done?' Claudia thought in horror as the Sentinel stood up to his full height and looked right at her. The woman tensed up and adjusted her combat stance, ready to fight the new threat, but instead of attacking her, the Sentinel shifted his gaze toward the horde of monsters and charged at them without the slightest trace of hesitation.

The first to fall was an orc. The pig-faced demon had barely the time to squeal in surprise before the armored titan cut off its head with one single swing of his sword. The severed head had barely touched the ground before another orc met a similar fate, this time courtesy of a punch that shattered its skull and turned its face into a bloody mess. By the time the other demons realized what was happening, three more orcs were now lying a pool of their own blood and an ogre was staring in disbelief at his severed arm. His fingers were still wrapped around the handle of his crude longsword, but before he could open his mouth to scream, the Sentinel grabbed him by his remaining arm and threw him violently against a group of imps, crushing them under the weight of the larger demon.

Another ogre tried to hit him in the back with its hammer, only to have its face caved in by a devastating elbow blow. The Sentinel then grabbed the demon's fallen weapon and swung it with all his might at a third ogre, crushing its rib-cage.

More and more demons kept coming at him with murderous intent, only to be quickly neutralized with brutal efficiency by the Sentinel, much to the astonishment of the knights and soldiers of the expedition.

"By the Goddess Reborn."

"Holy shit!"

"Who the hell is that?"

"Who cares? He's turning those freaks into mincemeat!"

'Yes. But what will he do once he's done with the demons?' Claudia couldn't help but wonder as she watched the Sentinel continue his rampage against the Olga's troops.

"Lady Claudia, look out!" Helen suddenly shouted, cutting off the arm of an imp that had tried to sneak behind Claudia.

Claudia mentally chided herself for getting distracted in the middle of a battle and finished the little freak by cracking open its ugly head with a downward swing of her sword. "Stop staring like a bunch of recruits and keep fighting!" she ordered, stabbing another imp through its chest. "The enemies will not kill themselves!"


Demons are simple creature. They're vile, violent beasts that come into many grotesque forms, slaves of their own passions and driven by a constant desire to destroy, kill, and rape. They despise weakness and only respect power, seeing anything else as a nuisance for lower races, meaning any creature that isn't a demon.

While they're not complete fools, they're also not the smartest creatures on the planet, preferring brute force and dirty tricks against more refined strategies. This is how their minds worked hundreds of years ago, and judging by the way this savage, unorganized horde was charging at him without any form of cohesion or strategy, their mentality had no changed at all during his time spent in the eternity chamber.

'Works for me,' the Sentinel thought as he easily parried the axe of an ogre before slashing viciously at its chest, cutting through flesh and bone with disconcerting ease before focusing on the next target. Another ogre charged at him with a crude mace held above its head with both hands, but the Sentinel was faster, sidestepping the attack before cutting off the tendons of his legs with a single swing of his sword. The brutish humanoid fell down with a loud cry of agony that was cut short when the super soldier kicked it in the head, snapping its neck.

A squealing orc swung its massive cleaver at him, but the Sentinel easily dodged the clumsy attack and slashed his sword across the demon's fat belly, spilling out its guts. A couple of imps rushed at him wielding wicked rusty daggers, one aiming at his side while the other jumped high enough to reach his neck, aiming at his throat. They were fast, but the Sentinel was faster. He swung his sword at the imp acrobat, cutting it in half, then he stomped at the other, crushing its frail body like it was an oversized cockroach.

He kept stabbing, slashing, cutting, punching, kicking, stomping, crushing, ripping, tearing, and smashing, until the ground around him was covered with the blood and corpses of its enemies. Realizing what was happening, the demons finally stopped, the bloodlust and hatred in their eyes replaced by hesitation and fear as they nervously observed the armored juggernaut standing in the middle of the carnage. Just who was this seemingly unstoppable human?

The Sentinel took advantage of their hesitation and went on the offensive, purposefully attacking the larger and stronger demons first, leaving the smaller and weaker ones without leadership while making things easier for the human troops. They were all good fighters, especially the women in silver armor, but as expected from non-augmented humans, they had their limits.

"Look out!" A female knight suddenly exclaimed in the same incomprehensible language of the man that had awoke him. Even without understanding their language, by the tone it was obviously a warning.

The Sentinel turned his head, just in time to be hit by an arrow. The deadly dart bounced harmlessly against his helmet, leaving just a scratch that seemed to evaporated without leaving trace just a few moments later. He followed the trajectory of the arrow and quickly found its source. A group of nine imps had managed to climb on the roof of a near building, using the elevated position to hit with impunity their targets.

His left hand went to his hip and pulled out his other weapon, the thunderbow. At a simple touch of a rune, the mana-powered handgun unfolded its prod and came to life with a low ominous whine. He then aimed the weapon at the imp that had just shot him and pulled the trigger, firing a dart of red energy that literally set the little freak of fire. The imp shrieked in agony as it dropped on the ground and started flailing round, burning like a living torch.

The other imps stared in horror at their unfortunate comrade before looking at the Sentinel.

'Hmm, too powerful,' he thought, quickly adjusting the power setting of the weapon before firing in rapid succession at the remaining imps, each shot leaving a smoking hole in their heads and chests, save for the last one. In a moment of panic, the surviving imp tried to flee, only to end up being shot in the leg. His limb ceased to exist below the knee, causing the imp to stumble and fall off the roof, breaking its neck.

Satisfied, he lowered the thunderbow and quickly checked its power level. There was still enough energy for one last shot before the weapon needed to recharge. He looked around in search of a good target and sure enough an ogre armed with a big mace appeared in front of him. The brute bellowed like a madman as it ran toward him with less-than-friendly intentions, but the Sentinel merely aimed his weapon at the demon and pulled the trigger, blowing up the upper half of its thick skull. Sidestepping the falling in an almost casual way, the Sentinel pressed a rune an collapsed his thunderbow in its compact configuration to let the weapon recharge using environmental mana, a process that would require a few minutes. Putting aside his handgun, he stabbed another ogre in guts, then grabbed its axe and threw it at the back of an orc standing a few dozen meters away before it could slay a young knight. The young man shifted his incredulous gaze between the dead orc and the Sentinel a few times, then he nervously nodded at him and rejoined the fight.

'Inexperienced, but he has potential,' the Sentinel decided before noticing a trio of ogres rushing toward him, two armed with crude longswords, while the one leading the attack carried a big spear.

The ogre spearman tried a savage thrust at the Sentinel's midsection, but the super soldier deftly sidestepped the attack, grabbing the shaft of the spear and pulling the demon toward him. The ogre widened its black eyes as it clumsily stumbled forward and the Sentinel headbutted violently its face, turning it into a bloody pulp and breaking its neck in the process, then he grabbed one of the remaining ogres by the arm and twisted it, breaking its bones and forcing the demon to drop his weapon, before using its body as meat shield to block the sword of the last ogre. Dropping the dead demon, the Sentinel wrapped his hand around the third ogre's throat and started squeezing. The demon dropped his weapon and tried free himself from the steely grip of the super soldier, but in vain. Before the Sentinel could finish him off, however, the ogre chieftain finally decided to join the fight.


Chieftain Urguk couldn't believe his eyes. He had been on the verge of victory when suddenly, out of nowhere, a new human had appeared and started slaughtering his troops like they were a bunch of vermin.

It wasn't fair! Humans were not supposed to be so big, fast, and strong! His confusion quickly turned into by anger. How dare this human ruin his triumph and stop him from taking what was rightfully his?! He would kill this warrior, eat his flesh, and wear his armor as trophy!

Swatting aside a lowly imp hard enough to beak its spine, Urguk pointed his axe at the oversized interloper and let out a powerful battle cry to get his attention.

The Sentinel turned around, still holding the young ogre by the throat, and look right at the war boss. Despite being almost two feet shorter than the demon, the Sentinel didn't seem particularly impressed nor intimidated by his new opponent. Without breaking eye contact with Urguk, the Sentinel crushed the younger ogre's windpipe and carelessly dropped him on the ground to choke to death, then tilted his head and made a beckoning gesture with his hand at the warlord.

Urguk was now positively furious. Roaring savagely at the human's insolence, the war boss charged at full speed with his war hammer raised in the air, ready to take off his head once within strike distance. The Sentinel stood his ground, waiting until the last second before deftly dodging the violent attack in an astounding display of speed and reflexes.

The war boss grunted in surprise and tried a horizontal swing at the human's chest, failing once again to hit the Sentinel. However, the move left him wide open, something which the super soldier was quick to capitalize. The Sentinel closed the distance separating him from the chieftain and stuck its stomach with a vicious punch that dented his crude chestplate. The chieftain widened his eyes and doubled over in pain, vomiting blood mixed with his last lunch. Before he could recover from the blow, the Sentinel struck again, this time with a devastating roundhouse kick that not only broke the ogre's jaw and a good number of his teeth, but also destroyed his right eye, then he hit the ogre in the chest with an open palm strike, leaving a crude imprint of his hand on Urguk's chestplate and throwing the demon on the ground. Urkguk landed heavily on his back, dropping his hammer in the process, and wheezed painfully as he felt his broken ribs puncture his lungs.

He tried to reach out for his fallen battle-axe, but just as his fingertips touched its handle, the Sentinel stepped on his hand. Urguk looked up with his remaining good eye and froze in fear at the sight of a towering figure glaring down at him with a pair of glowing blue eyes. The once proud ogre chieftain opened his mouth, but what came out wasn't one last roar of defiance or a moan of pain. It was a pathetic wail of terror as he watched the Sentinel raise one foot over his head before bringing it down violently.

Everything became dark and Urguk was no more.


The ogre's skull shattered like a rotten melon under the Sentinel's booth, splattering blood, fragments of bone and grey matter all over the floor. The entire fight had lasted less than a minute and had been rather one-sided, but that's expected when your opponent is muscle brain that thinks that physical strength is everything.

The Sentinel lifted his gaze and realized that the battle had stopped, as both demons and humans had momentarily ceases fighting each other to watch his fight against the ogre chieftain.

The humans were amazed. Ogre chieftain were notorious for their strength and ruthlessness, and yet the confidence and utter lack of fear shown by the Sentinel while facing one of them had been inspiring, if not even heroic. The demons, on the other hand, were downright terrified. Not only he had single handedly slain their leader, but he had also done it without weapons, using only his bare hands! And now, without the guidance of their champion, they were next.

"He's the Grim Reaper!" a lone imp shrieked with its high-pitched voice, running with his hands in the air. So great was its fear that it didn't realize it was running right toward the super soldier. Without even looking at the terrified little freak, the Sentinel pulled out his sword and swung it sideway, beheading the imp.

That unexpectedly comic death seemed to finally snap everyone from their state of stupor.

"Kill them all!" a female knight wearing a dark blue cape and a peculiar winged headband, the same he had seen after jumping off the fortress, ordered as she stabbed an ogre in the back.

Emboldened by the defeat of the ogre chieftain and by the courage of their leader, the Eostians let out a powerful battle cry and charged at the enemy with only one thought in mind: revenge.

The demons raised their weapons to defend themselves, but without their leader and with their morale shattered, they became easy prey for the human forces and the fight soon degenerated in a slaughter.

Several demons dropped their weapons and tried to flee, only to be mercilessly mowed down by arrows and bolts of energy fired from the Sentinel's thunderbow.

The last surviving orc had almost reached the gate when the Sentinel grabbed a discarded spear from the ground and threw it at him with all his strength. The spear crossed the fifty meters of distance in a blink, easily penetrating through the nape of the orc and coming out for a third of its length out of his face. Still carrying momentum, the orc's corpse managed to take a few more steps before crashing ruinously on the ground like a ragdoll.


Claudia yanked out her sword from the chest of a dead ogre with a grunt and looked around to assess the situation. Out of the thirty men and women that originally formed the expedition, six had died and five more had been wounded. The paladin bowed her head and gave a silent prayer for those who had lost their life in battle today.

"It could have been worse, my lady," Helen said, knowing what she was thinking. In any other situation it would have been a miracle if there were any survivors.

"Indeed. Our comrades have been avenged," Claudia said, glaring at the dead monsters littering the floor. Vile, wretched beasts. The world would be a better place if they just went extinct. Her gaze followed the trail of corpses until she finally found the one who had massacred most of them. The Sentinel stood motionless in the middle of the carnage with his back toward her, but if it was to admire his handywork or to simply observe his surroundings after thousands of years of magically-induced sleep, she couldn't tell.

"Claudia!" Klaus suddenly called her.

The Shield of Geofu turned around and saw her husband running toward her as fast as he could.

"Klaus!" Lady Levantine exclaimed as she ran toward him, hugging him tightly as soon as they met half-way.

"Are you hurt?" Klaus asked worried as he ran his gaze all over her body after they broke the embrace. Her previously pristine armor and cape were now covered in blood, and there was even some on her face.

"I'm fine. The blood is not mine," Claudia quickly reassured him before her expression became serious. "What the hell were you thinking?"

"I had no choice!" Klaus exclaimed nervously. "The demons were about to overrun you! Breaking the stasis field was the only way to win this battle."

"And what will happen now that all the demons are dead?" Claudia demanded more harshly than she intended.

Klaus flinched. "I…I didn't think so far," he admitted. "I couldn't think of a better plan, things didn't look good for you and the others and- and I was just afraid of losing you and- and-" He lowered his gaze, unable to finish the sentence.

Claudia's expression softened. "Klaus," she began, only to stiffen when she looked past his shoulder. "Get behind me," she quietly ordered.

The scholar was at first confused by her sudden change of attitude, but it quickly became clear when he followed her gaze and saw the Sentinel staring right at them.

"Oh, gods," he whispered nervously as the super soldier started advancing toward them with slow, deliberate steps.

Those still able to fight tensed up and tightened their grip around their weapons, but no one dared to attack. After seeing the Sentinel in action, the last thing anyone wanted was provoking him.

Claudia stood her ground and adjusted her stance, keeping her sword ready in case the Sentinel turned hostile. 'There's no way I can win against him, but I'd be damned if I go down without a fight!' she thought with determination. A quick look at her knights told her that they felt the same way.

The Sentinel finally stopped just a few steps in front of Claudia and simply stared down at her. Claudia looked up and stared back at him with her own unwavering gaze, but she'd be lying if she said she wasn't intimidated by his size and appearance.

Their staring contest went on for what felt like an eternity, until the Sentinel did something that caught everyone off guard: he bowed his head and placed his closed fist across his chest.

Claudia was so surprised by the gesture that she almost dropped her sword. "... eh?" She said in an amazing display of eloquence.

"Well… at least he's not hostile," Klaus commented with cautious optimism.

"Why is he saluting me?" Claudia shout-whispered nervously through the corner of her mouth, keeping her eyes on the Sentinel.

"He probably identified you as the highest authority here," Klaus reasoned before noticing something else. "Also, he must have recognized Celestine's mark on your armor," he added after a few moments of observation, referring to the symbol of a tri-pointed star overlapping a circle that was engraved on her left pauldron. "It's part of a set of ruins that probably date all the way back to the First Golden Age."

Claudia took a moment to digest his words. "So, he knows that we too serve the goddess?"

"One goddess, from his point of view, but yes, that's probably enough for him to know we're on the same side."

The woman visibly relaxed and slowly sheathed her sword. "Then I suppose introductions are in order," she said before addressing the juggernaut. "Greetings, honorable Sentinel," she announced with authority and confidence. "I am Lady Claudia Levantine, Shield Princess of Geofu, Commander of the holy order of the Dawn Templars, and loyal servant of her glorious highness Celestine Lucross, the Goddess Reborn. Standing beside me is my husband, sir Klaus Levantine, the man that awoke you from your slumber." Klaus gave a polite bow. "On behalf of all of us, I express my sincerest gratitude for your decisive assistance in the battle against those foul creatures."

"..."

"..."

"…"

"…" The Sentinel tilted his head in a universal gesture of confusion.

Klaus opened his mouth to speak, but Claudia beat him. "Let me guess, he didn't understand a single word of what I just said, right?" she deadpanned, suppressing the urge to facepalm. "Is there any hope you'd be able to act as translator?"

Klaus paled at the suggestion. "Even after centuries of studies, our grasp of their language is still rudimentary at best."

"But you could still try, right?"

"I'd rather not. The last thing I want is insulting his mother or something because I pronounced incorrectly a word."

"I see," Claudia drily said. 'If only Theodor was still alive, he may have been able to cast a translation spell to overcome the language barrier,' she thought frustrated.

"Duty. Protect. Fight," the Sentinel suddenly said, startling everyone. His filtered voice was gravely, as expected from someone who didn't speak often, but younger than expected. If Claudia had to guess, he sounded like a man in his mid-to-late twenties. Any further observation was put aside however when she realized one crucial detail.

"Wait. Did he just speak in our language?" Claudia said in disbelief. "How is it possible?"

Klaus was equally surprised by the situation, until he noticed a small glowing rune that had appeared between the eyes of the Sentinel's helmet. The rune resembled an upside-down triquetra inside a circle and intersected by a single vertical line and was slowly pulsating. "Do you see that symbol? It can be roughly translated as 'learning' or 'discover'. I think his armor is able to provide him with a rudimentary translation of our language."

"How much rudimentary are we talking about?"

"It's difficult to say, but I suggest you to be direct and use simple sentences."

Claudia looked back at the Sentinel. "I don't know how much you've understood of what I just said, but… thank you. You've saved many lives today."

The glowing rune pulsed a few times and the Sentinel nodded, then he suddenly raised his arm and pointing at the gate.

'Does he want us to leave? I mean, we're technically trespassers, but- oh.' Claudia's eyes widened in realization when she noticed that he wasn't pointing at the wall gate, but rather at the ruins of the city beyond it. A quick look at Klaus told her that he had come to the same conclusion.

"Where?" the super soldier slowly asked, confirming their suspicions.

'Dammit.'

"I'm sorry, but your people disappeared a long time ago," Klaus said quietly, looking sadly at the armored titan. "I wish things were different."

The Sentinel's shoulders sagged a bit and he lowered his head, looking down at his empty hands. What would he do now that all he had left were dust and echoes?

"Come with us," Claudia said suddenly, taking a bold step forward. The Sentinel looked at her with curiosity. "You people may be gone, but you can still find a new purpose helping us win the war."

The warrior tilted his head. "War?" He slowly repeated the word.

"Yes. Against the queen of the dark elves, Olga Discordia, and her armies of monsters," Claudia explained, gesturing at the dead monsters lying on the ground all around them. "Things are bad. We've been fighting them for centuries, but even under the leadership of the goddess reborn herself, we barely manage to contain their incursions. The land is devastated and countless lives have already been lost." Claudia's gaze faltered. "I… I don't know how much longer we'll be able to resist." It was a painful admission for the proud knight, but she needed to be honest with him, even if it meant showing her weakness and insecurities. "Please. Help us stop this bloodbath."

The Sentinel looked silently at the tired and bruised knights and soldiers looking expectantly at him, then at the death demons on the ground, and finally at ruins of Vigilance.

"War." He repeated the word once more, this time with a more thoughtful tone.

Claudia felt Klaus grab her hand and she gently squeezed it as they watched anxiously the Sentinel consider her offer.

"Purpose," the Sentinel said after a while. "Here. No." He then turned back toward the married couple and gave them a firm nod. "War. Yes. Help. You," he said resolutely.

The men and women all around them cheered and Claudia herself couldn't help but smile gratefully at super soldier. "Thank you," she said as she felt something she hadn't truly felt in years.

Hope.


So, here we are, my first story on this site. I discovered Kuroinu by accident when I read the stories 'But Embers Remains', a Dark Souls crossover written by Modnartenstein, and 'The Irregular' by Omegas Prime, then I did the big mistake of getting curious and look for the source material and oh boy, let me tell you, in comparison Goblin Slayer is just a slightly darker version of Konosuba. I know it's hentai, but watching Kuroinu is like watching a car accident: you want to look away, but at the same time you're curious to see what will happen next, no matter how bad it is. Rape is already something horrible, but the idea of an entire nation being violated is simply disgusting. So, I decided to write this story in a vain attempt to clean my soul and heal my spirit (spoiler: no matter how much you scrub, you'll never be clean!)

As you may have noticed, I've took the liberty to make a few changes to some elements of the series, most notably the design of the armors used by the female characters. I know that the main point of Kuroinu is porn, with the fantasy setting being just a justification for elements like bikini armors and horny monsters, but I while I'll not take a hyper realistic approach (it's still an anime set in a world where magic is real after all), at the same time I will try to reach a balance between practical and sexy. My main source of inspiration comes from LionheartXIII's artwork, you can find his profile on DeviantArt.

The Sentinels are basically a fantasy version of the Spartan II from Halo in terms of size, physique, and abilities, while the design of their armor is heavily inspired by the armor used by the Night Sentinels in DOOM (2016) and DOOM Eternal, except for the helmet, which resembled the one of the Grey Knight Terminators from Warhammer 40k.

I've decided to distinguish the ogres as the horned monsters with the beer belly and half-bald heads that we see in the OVA, while the orcs are the ones with pig heads (see Mortadella brothers from Kuroinu or any M-rated fantasy manga for reference).

The design of the fortress is based on the great ziggurat of Ur, if you're curious, you can find some very nice drawings on Google to see how it once looked.

If you like the story, please leave a comment and let me know what you think, constructive criticisms are appreciated.