Chapter 2

2

Heroes of the Order

"Thank you once again!"

Cyril tipped his hat politely at the receptionist at the table and quietly pocketed his coin. A few more jobs and he could probably afford to get a horse, grab whatever belongings he had in his shabby house and leave Lescatie for good. A week had passed since he had encountered his first monster, and he was already annoyed with the situation.

Firstly, because she had a hand on the music box he owned and secondly he had demolished the only damned table in the house like a degenerate madman. He had a few crates that he had managed to salvage from other abandoned houses but they were all too low, forcing him to stoop over it like an idiot whenever he was eating supper. It may have been a small discomfort but it was still quite infuriating. Thirdly, he didn't have time to go around looking for furniture because now the Order was taking their duties a bit more seriously.

The guards were going around asking questions about possible monster sightings, they had taken particular interest in those who left and returned the city frequently. People like mercenaries and adventurers who had contact with monsters outside of the city.

People like him. Cyril sighed as he blended in with the crowd, something he had long practiced when he entered the Waking World but it won't be enough. Someone would eventually be on his tail and he didn't like that. Worse, things could escalate enough that marshal law would be enacted. He wasn't looking forward to that kind of restriction to his travel at all.

Cyril glanced back cautiously to see if anyone followed him from the adventurer's guild, saw nothing and continued on his journey home. The Good Hunter's stride was slow, he had such troublesome things on his mind that he felt frustrated. It must have shown in his body language because everyone kept away from the gray coated stranger. He looked up to see a troop of guards out on patrol. Cyril quickly changed his route, heading to a side street that would lead into the slums. At least, the presence of the Order was lessened here… for now at least.

Still, this was going to be troublesome. Perhaps he should have killed that thing that had entered his home unannounced. It certainly would have been easier to just bury the body somewhere.

The Hunter entered his abode and removed his hat, lowering his bandanna in the process. His eyes scanned the room and found what he was looking for. A broom. Good. He had some sweeping to do before the day was out. Cyril placed his hat back on and picked up the broom, he began sweeping the front entrance of his home, leaving the door open.

He soon lost himself in the monotony of the task of sweeping the floor of dust and other debris.


Wilmarina Noscrim was a Hero, chosen by the Chief God to become the sword and shield of Lescatie. She did not look like it, being that she was only seventeen and on the cusp of adulthood. She looked like an ordinary young girl save for the sword at her side and the hidden aura of divine strength that rushed through her veins. The blessings of the Chief God were given to those who were worthy, and Wilmarina would continue to prove herself worthy of that trust.

She was the strongest hero to have been born in Lescatie and she had just left the orphanage where her superior, Sasha Fullmoon, took care of those orphans. This had been the second time that she had missed him, her childhood friend Elton.

It made her feel guilty, knowing what had happened to him and his parents. What her father did, a black mark that stained her soul. She knew what her father did, and every day she felt nothing but raw uncompromising hatred for the man. For what she did to the one precious person in her life. Wilmarina exhaled shakily and quickly cast her heretical thoughts from her mind.

She was Wilmarina the Hero. And right now, she had an ongoing investigation to go through. She was not about to be distracted by such petty notions of conflict. When the clergy had tasked its holy men and women to search for any signs of infiltration, it made her question the orders. What kind of monstrous foe would seek to destroy the nation of Lescatie? The impenetrable jewel of the Order? Wilmarina kept walking and that was when she saw him.

A stranger was sweeping the outside of his house. Wilmarina had never seen someone so tall and foreboding. A tattered tricorne hat and cloth bandanna hid his features from view. He held the broom and swept dust and dirt out of his home in a monotonous display, his posture was that of a weary man who had seen far too much in a previous life. Wilmarina knew a warrior when she saw one, and this one was strong. Weary, but strong.

"E-Excuse me."

The man ignored her, sweeping his home still. Wilmarina frowned. She hated to use her status but being brushed off like this… It was annoying and rude certainly. Was the man deaf? She hated to think about something-

"Yes?" The man asked, not facing her. He was still sweeping. "You'll have to pardon the mess… The slums are naturally not very clean."

Wilmarina looked around and saw a beggar point at her nervously before running off. "I can… see that." She said. "Um… you don't look like you're from around here."

"So I have been told." Was the pedantic answer. "I just moved in a few months ago, and no I am not interested in joining any Order crusade. I've done more than enough soldiering."

Wilmarina blinked. That was not what she was going to ask at all. So this man had dealt with monsters too?

"B-But surely… You have seen what the monsters do to the innocent people? Can't you at least consider-"

"I have. And I am done with this conversation." His voice quieted to a whisper but Wilmarina did not mistake the chill in his tone for joviality. The man turned to face her with dead eyes and an expressionless mask of a face. But, she could tell that his patience was wearing thin.

"I-I apologize." Wilmarina said stiffly. "For disturbing you and causing you distress, good sir. Have a good day."

She left, head down. Wilmarina took one last look as the man continued sweeping before she marched back to the Noscrim estates. She knew Sasha was not mistaken, that her neighbor was a kind, if strange man that made donations to her orphanage. But whatever he was angry about involved her and she did not know why.


Cyril knew who that blue haired girl was. Wilmarina Noscrim was the strongest hero in Lescatie and she just came up here for a chat. The Hunter watched her go and that was it. He could have killed her right then and there, but that was a battle not worth risking. He had to be patient and discreet and that meant not starting fights like last night. He was still annoyed about that. He was also annoyed at the fact that Order recruiters were snooping around his abode. His eyes narrowed in irritation.

Fuming, Cyril exhaled through his nose as he finished his chores for the day. He locked the door and headed towards the market. He had enough gold to keep him supplied but he still really needed more coin to get the hell out of dodge and into better territories, and hopefully way before anything major happened like a crusade. Preferably somewhere neutral, where he did not have to deal with man or monster. The Hunter meandered through the market, purchasing his food for supper and other supplies which included lantern oil for his fire bombs.

Collecting bottles was easy enough, many of the slum folk drunk wine to try and forget their situations. It was just too bad it didn't really work for long so they brought more wine. Cyril had been kind enough to take their empty bottles at least. Fire was essential in a beast hunt and many humans did not take too well to being set on fire, and Cyril knew that because he had gotten rid of more than one bandit camp with fire. The Hunter appreciated his tools, they kept him alive.

And if one could not trust his tools then what was the point of having so much equipment at one's disposal?

Carrying his groceries home, Cyril stopped as he saw a commotion up at Sasha Fullmoon's orphanage. A noble, blonde and blue eyed was kicking at the fallen form of a young man who had his hands up. His colleagues surrounded the boy and a crowd was gathering.

Don't get involved.

Cyril ignored the sound of flesh hitting flesh, cruel laughter and the pained grunts of the victim.

Don't get involved.

The Hunter's fist clenched as he heard the noble make a promise to "burn the orphanage down."

Don't get involved…

I love you Mister Hunter! I love you as much as Mum! And Dad! And Grand dad!

The Hunter stopped when he heard a voice.

"Big Brother!"

The Hunter saw red. He did not speak as he shoved his way through the crowd, he did not speak as he approached the noble who had his boot on the back of a red haired man's head. He did not speak as the noble laughed in his face, the laughter stopped as the cruel Hunter's hand wrapped around his jaw.

Cyril squeezed and the nobleman screamed as his jaw shattered like glass. The noble kept screaming even as one of his friends drew a knife, a good looking blade. Cyril's eyes locked onto him and the world seemed to slow down as the knife wielding man, boy really, charged at him recklessly. The Hunter flung his first victim out of the way and caught the knife wielder's arm and broke it, bending the limb in an angle that it was really not supposed to go.

The boy began to scream then stopped as the Hunter punched him in the throat, sending him down. The other two made attempts to draw swords but Cyril was faster. Way faster. He lashed out with a punch, the third noble took the blow to the head and went down on his knees, Cyril followed that up with a second punch that sent the man flying. He hit the ground a second later, his head bleeding. The fourth managed to get his blade drawn but Cyril lashed out once more, this time his kick broke the would-be attacker's leg.

The crowd drew back in disgust and fear as the boy's leg bent backwards at an angle that was impossible for a human being. The man's screams echoed through the afternoon air. Cyril panted under his bandanna as he realized what he had done. He had gotten involved. All because of a memory that he had long since buried.

"Big Brother Elt!"

The Hunter turned to the red haired man who was on his knees. Beside him were two girls, one a cheerful brunette with her hair in two bunches and the other a younger blonde with a gentle expression rent with worry.

"I-I'm fine, Lisia." the young man said, trying to chuckle. "Just banged up." He looked up at the gray coated stranger that had saved them. Cyril avoided his gaze, merely shoving his way back through the crowd ignoring the utterly broken young men he had left on the streets to suffer. The Hunter grabbed his groceries and headed home in utter silence. He was breathing hard, his blood boiled and he wanted more victims.

He had to calm down. He had to stop thinking. He needed to… He needed to kill. Cyril made every attempt to reign in the desire for violence. The bane of each and every Hunter, the blood lust would always be there lurking in the back of his mind. And if he chose to listen to that voice? This world would become nothing more than a charnel pit. He would become another beast, a scourge upon the sane and the innocent. Cyril swore to himself that he would not succumb to the same fate as those in Yharnam.

That was his greatest fear.

Cyril locked the door and sat down on his chair, staring at the wall. He would not stir from his home for more than a few hours.


The next day…

Captain Merse Dascaros was fuming. Fuming because some idiot nobles, who had volunteered to join her training company just because they were bored, had decided to go make fools of themselves. Worse. They assaulted one of her trainees while he was on his day off, all because they had to prove their superiority…

At Sasha Fullmoon's orphanage no less! What a nightmare!

The one eyed Hero of the Order muttered to herself. The nobles who were responsible got their just desserts… although she was thinking that less and less. Because one of them was said to be in a coma due to a head injury, the lead noble Joachim Brand, was currently in the healer's quarters due to a severely broken jaw and the other two were suffering from broken limbs. Merse did not envy Brand right now because he may never speak again. Or eat solid food but that was their problem. The Brand Family had always been a miserable lot with a streak of cruelty in them, treating the common folk as if they were nothing but dolls.

But it seemed that someone made sure to give them the same treatment, their heir was traumatized. Apparently the man responsible for putting the offenders in such a state was described as a foreigner and was living in the slums. A gray coated stranger with a tattered hat, Elt had seen him and apparently the stranger had made several donations to Sasha Fullmoon's orphanage.

Other than that, there were no records of him. He stayed completely isolated in the slums of Lescatie.

Merse scowled as she marched into the slums looking for her favorite trainee. Elton Dragmire, or Elt as he was more formally known, was a hard working recruit but with ambitions of becoming a knight. Merse did not dissuade the youth from his dream but… Things didn't work like that in Lescatie. Not at all. The clergy and nobility had the cards and if you didn't like the way they dealt then it was tough shit.

It was sickening how twisted this country was. Merse sometimes hated her job. She hated the self serving nobility even more. Keeping a handle on her personal weapon, a halberd, Merse approached the orphanage where Elt stayed and let out a sigh. She knocked on the door.

"Oh!"

When the door opened, it was Elt who had a bandage wrapped around his head. "Captain?"

Merse blinked. "I see that you're already up and about." She stated calmly, then grinned. She never really could keep a straight face. Nonetheless, she was worried about Elt.

"Nothing I can't handle, Captain." Elt said softly. "Sasha helped out the most but she told me to take it easy today… I'm sorry."

Merse wasn't about to overrule one of the most decorated veterans in the Order. She was just responsible for training the recruits in the Order Knights after all, if Sasha Fullmoon says you need rest then you need rest. "Is she in?"

Elt answered by letting his captain inside the orphanage.


"I am terribly sorry about what happened." Sasha looked outright exhausted.

"You weren't the one beating the crap out of my pupil, General." Merse joked, though that humor went out of the window as she saw Elt limp past, with those two girls hanging around him to make sure he didn't fall down. "Then again, your neighbor seems to be an upstanding fellow… he would be if he hadn't crippled two young men for life."

Sasha sighed. "He frightened Emiyu and Lisia. But I don't think he meant to, he did help Elt out of that situation after all." She set down her cup of tea. "He's… troubled. I saw that when I finally managed to catch up with him."

"He does live in this area. You'd have to be crazy to try and make a living in the slums… no offense of course." Merse said to Sasha.

Sasha rolled her eyes. Still, she seemed worried. "I've never met someone like that, but I think he has been through a lot. I should… I should probably speak with him over what happened, God knows that he may need it… And the Brand Family will not take this insult lightly."

"They won't." Merse said. "But with all the politicking going on around here… They've got their hands full, still… I should probably speak to him too. See what he's made of."

Sasha's brow furrowed. "You mean to recruit him into the Order Knights?" She asked. Merse shrugged.

"Hey, I mean if he's talented. Sure, Brand's heir wouldn't know which end of a sword to hold onto if it was given to him hilt first but still… Elt says he's not just fast but strong so I should still check it out."

Merse stood up. "Right now." She said with a grin. Sasha just sighed and followed along with the Captain's plan, although something told her that Merse's recruitment strategy was not going to work on the man named Cyril Sutherland.


Cyril heard the knocking and blinked irritably. Again, the book he was reading the Monster Girl Encyclopedia was on the floor. The Hunter rubbed his eyes, groaning in irritation but at the same time he felt relieved that his sleep was undisturbed. He sat on his cot, listening to the knocking get more frequent.

Alright then.

He made sure to take his time, pulling on his coat and buttoning it as he looked at his reflection in the broken mirror. He walked over and rearranged his living area before he finally made it to the door. He checked his boots, then took a deep breath and opened the door.

There was a scowling woman there, peeved that he took so long to open the door. She had gray hair that was tied up at the back. Her outfit was sensible, if a bit revealing and she had a rather muscular physique. One eye was covered by a patch and judging from the faint scars he could see, Cyril could tell that the wound was an old one. He just quirked a brow and asked.

"Yes?"


Merse glared at him.

"It's rude not to open the door when someone knocks, you know." She told him.

The man hardly reacted to her chiding tone, instead blinking very slowly. His eyes were empty, and he hardly made an expression. This was Sasha's neighbor? He didn't seem to threatening now that she had seen him in the flesh.

"So why should I bother if you're coming up here armed?" The man asked her in return, nudging his head at the halberd in Merse's hands. "Are you a brigand here to steal whatever belongings I have in my home? Are you going to kill me if I resist?"

"Brigand? Hey buddy, I'm a Captain of the Order Knights." Merse said, hackles raised. "So you should probably watch your tone."

The man exhaled through his nose as his eyes narrowed, looking over Merse's shoulder.

"Merse!" Sasha Fullmoon caught up to her erstwhile companion. "Why didn't you tell me you were headed here already-Ah!"

Sasha bowed. "Good afternoon Master Cyril." She said softly seeing the expression of annoyance on Cyril's face. The man exhaled again.

"Good afternoon to you as well, Miss Sasha. Do you know this heavily armed woman that was banging on my door?" He gestured to Merse nonchalantly, as if she was not his concern. Merse frowned at him, why was he more polite with Sasha?

"She's Merse Dascaros, a colleague in the Order." Sasha answered. "She may be… crass but she has a good heart. We both had wished to speak to you."

"I see." Cyril looked back inside and sighed. "Would you both like to come in then?"

The house was sparsely furnished. Merse looked around curiously as she sat down on the small wooden crate Cyril had taken out as an extra chair. He allowed Sasha to have the sole wooden chair that he had while he fixed up some tea. At least it was clean, Merse mused as she looked around. The living area was hardly impressive, for a man with considerable martial experience like Cyril however it was more than enough.

The man had called himself a Hunter when Merse had asked what exactly he did for a living, although Cyril had said that he had wished to retire, he often did odd jobs as a caravan guard during his travels until he ended up staying in Lescatie.

"Ah, so you were a mercenary then." Merse nodded. "It's not a bad life, but it is a harsh one in these times."

Cyril shrugged. "You could say that but it was not my intention to be one." He said to her. His monotone voice made Merse a bit nervous. The way he walked was also different, slouched and yet at the same time it seemed to her that Cyril the Hunter prowled in his home. Furthermore, she sensed… no mana at all coming from the man.

Heroes differed in their ability to sense mana, Sasha was extremely good at it. So good that even their resident Magical Girl, Mimil Miltie, was impressed. Merse glanced at Sasha who gave her a cautious glance. Their new acquaintance was a complete void, he had no mana which was utterly terrifying. How can someone have no mana? It permeated the world according to the sorcerers up at Magitec.

Merse knew Mimil would have been curious to meet this mana-less wonder. But at the same time she dreaded it, she dreaded being in the same room as this cold stranger who had now set the teapot on a larger crate that sat in the middle of them. Merse half expected the man to slam the tea pot into Sasha's face to start a fight but instead Cyril went to grab some silverware and tea cups from a small cupboard.

Merse knew why she was feeling so much dread. There was an undercurrent in the room, some kind of pressure that emanated from Mister Cyril the Hunter, an aura that set off the body's instinct to run for the hills.

"Ah, thank you." Sasha took the tea and the saucer. She sipped appreciatively. "Um… I would like to say thank you for helping Elt… I know-I know it wasn't your intention to scare the two girls with him but…"

Cyril stayed quiet, staring into the fire. He blinked and looked at Sasha. The priestess felt nothing in that gaze before the Hunter answered.

"I… It was not my intention to scare the children either." He said softly. "Forgive me, my… humors were out of balance yesterday I may have been a bit out of sorts."

Sasha frowned. "Do you have trouble sleeping, Master Cyril?" She asked.

"I have nightmares. What of it?" Cyril stated. He then breathed in and out, calming himself down. "I apologize. Yes I do have nightmares."

Sasha merely pushed the thought of his rudeness aside. "Perhaps you should rest from your job as a caravan guard for a little bit. You may be stressed out, Master Cyril and it would do no one good if you collapse from exhaustion."

Cyril blinked at her slowly. Merse felt her fist clench slightly. It was like a predator was watching for the right time to strike.

"I thank you for the advice, Miss Sasha." He said softly. "Perhaps I shall have to find some recreation in the City."

Sasha smiled gently. "That is all I ask, Master Cyril. And if you do need anything, please, do not hesitate to come by the orphanage to talk. My door is always open."


It was nighttime by the time Sasha and Merse left the Hunter to his business.

"Well… that was…" Merse started as Sasha looked back at the house, her face pale.

"That man had no mana, but you sensed it right?" Sasha spoke seriously this time. Her eyes were locked onto the Hunter's humble home.

All signs of brevity left Merse's body as she nodded. "The man was a literal void, yes." She told Sasha. "But he's dangerous. Really dangerous. He makes a high ranking monster look tame, the room was suffocating."

"Indeed." Sasha whispered. "He has not been hostile. I would like to keep an eye on him…"

"Are we going to tell the higher ups?" Merse asked. "I was asked to report anything suspicious and this guy is ringing bells that shouldn't be ringing in my head right now."

"Don't." Sasha said. "That might force him to do something drastic that would end in tears for everyone involved. Perhaps… he could be persuaded to join your training platoon? He is a seasoned warrior after all, maybe he could also learn some new tricks."

Merse shrugged.

Sasha giggled. "I'll try to get him to visit, he did help Elt after all and maybe he could teach him how to fight more effectively."

"Ah… that sounds like an idea." Merse said, smirking. "All right. I'll give it a try."


Later that night…

"Ah, Natsume good to- Natsume?"

Fina flinched in surprise as her friend, suddenly wrapped her arms around her and hugged her tight. "N-Natsume!?" The Kunoichi was sobbing in relief.

The Dhampir looked around. She was but one of the many agents who could operate fully because of her heritage… The raven haired beauty quickly pulled the hysterical Kunoichi into the woods. Shushing the older woman gently, Fina loosened her sword in its sheath as they finally found a private place to talk.

"Natsume, what happened?" Fina asked. "You were supposed to report in a few days ago!"

"I…" Natsume whispered. Fina held both her hands. "I… met someone."

"You… You did?" Fina asked, feeling confused. Sure, it was nice for a monster to meet the man of her dreams but they had a mission to complete for Captain Ursula. The Dhampir held Natsume's shoulders.

"Why… Why are you crying then?"

Natsume was scaring her especially now when the Kunoichi looked her in the eyes, so utterly horrified that she was close to breaking. So close. Fina's own blue orbs were wide with distress. "Natsume, you have to tell me what happened."

"He tried to kill me." Natsume said softly.

"Who? You… You went after an Order boy didn't you?"

"No!" Natsume whispered harshly. "He wasn't… He wasn't with the Order. No. No, he's worse. Far worse…"

"Natsume…" Fina said quietly. "What happened to you?"

"I saw… I saw what was behind his mask. I saw… horrible, horrible things. He was worse." Natsume told her. "He was worse. And he'll kill me if he ever saw me again." She started sobbing again.

Fina didn't know what to do, but one thing was certain. Someone knew that there were agents operating in Lescatie. Their cover would be blown if that certain someone spoke. Fina decided then and there that she had to alert the Captain, everyone was in danger.

"Come on, Natsume." Fina said. "Let's go back to camp."