Side Story: A Retainer’s Tale
Editors: Speedphoenix, Joker
Darkness had descended upon the city. The sun had long hidden itself away beneath the horizon and left the moon in its place. Try as it would, the moon simply couldn’t provide the world beneath it with the sun’s energy or radiance.
While the lack of light was certainly a contributing factor, it was not the only reason that the command centre was so hard to spot. The fiends had intentionally constructed it in a manner that would keep it out of sight; it was sandwiched between a series of larger buildings and designed to be as inconspicuous as any secret hideout should. And yet, it had been discovered.
“T-there are four in total, two by the door, and two standing by on the roof.” One of the three individuals staring down the building’s entrance nervously stuttered out a report. A glance was all that was needed to know that she, Vische, was the most inexperienced of the bunch, for though they stood in front of her, both her companions were far less conspicuous.
The first almost seemed to be one with the night itself. Though he stood out in the open, he was effectively impossible to see. The other was a little more cautious. He made sure to move from shadow to shadow as he slowly crept towards his destination. Vische was nowhere near as skilled as either. Still, it wasn’t as if she was simply standing out in the open either. She managed to keep out of sight despite being as flustered as could be.
“I can take care of the two on the roof. Can I trust you two to eliminate the others?”
“Certainly, captain,” the man who had been slinking around in the shadows turned to address the team’s newest member immediately after acknowledging his orders. “You stay here and keep watch, Vische. I’ll take care of the bottom two myself.”
“Calm down. Vische. You’ll be okay,” said the shadow slinker. “You’ve gone through more than enough training to handle this. And even if you haven’t, the captain and I have got your back. You really don’t need to be so nervous.”
“How am I supposed to do that!?” said Vische indignantly. She made sure to keep her voice as quiet as she could in order to ensure that they weren’t discovered.
“It’ll be a breeze, Vische. Calm down,” said the captain. “Now let’s get started.”
The night itself almost seemed to shudder as he vanished, only to reappear on the roof as the two guards standing on top of it collapsed. Their execution had been as silent as it was instant. Not a single sound was made as they met their untimely demise.
Vische’s other companion followed their captain’s lead and also leapt into action. He dashed straight at the two guards standing out front and slit the first’s throat before jabbing his dagger into the second’s heart.
Unlike the captain, he wasn’t able to perform perfect, silent kills. Each of the two men groaned as their lives ended, but he at least managed to catch them before they hit the ground, eliminating the sound that would have accompanied their collapse.
“They really never fail to impress…” said Vische to no one in particular.
“How are the enemies inside looking?” The man on the roof leapt back down onto the ground as he posed the question.
“G-give me a second.”
Vische closed her eyes and took a breath before reopening them and staring fixedly at the building before them.
“There are… 16 of them in total. They haven’t noticed us just yet, but they’re on high alert.”
“I suppose they would be. We have been raiding their bases quite often as of late. Where are they positioned?”
“Three of them are in the security station situated right next to the door. There are four more in a room at the end of the hallway. There’s only one on the second floor. He’s sleeping in one of the back rooms. The basement has another seven, with four in the room right by the stairs, and three in the room furthest away.”
“There’s a lot of ‘em. Captain, what do you think?” The dagger wielder frowned as he turned to his boss for advice.
“It’s fine. They’re too spread out to be a threat. I’ll be going in by myself. Keep Vische safe while I’m gone.”
“You sure, Captain?”
“Don’t worry. It’s all just another day’s work. I’ll be back in an instant.” He almost seemed to melt into the night and vanish, leaving only his words behind.
“I-I know I say this almost every time I see it, but the captain’s spells sure are impressive,” said Vische.
“Yes, yes they are. You can easily see why they call him the king’s right hand man.” replied the dagger-wielder. “To the fiends, he’s no different from a walking nightmare. If he shows up at their door, then they’re dead for good. There’s nothing they can do to end his rampage, and nothing they can do to stop him from showing up. The worst part is that they’ll be dead before they even realize they’re under attack. The only choice they have is to tremble in their boots until it’s suddenly all over.”
“I-I’m just glad he’s on our side.”
“Me too, Vische. Me too.”
There wasn’t really much more to be said, so the pair ended up idling in front of the building until the door eventually creaked open. The man immediately brandished his dagger and got ready for a fight, but lowered it as quickly as he had raised it once he realized that the individual exiting the building was none other than the captain they had been discussing a few minutes prior.
“That was a quick cleanup, captain,” he said.
“G-good work out there, captain!” said Vische.
“Thank you. They weren’t very impressive. This base’s staff was mainly comprised of thugs,” he said. “That about wraps things up. Let’s go.”
”W-what about the corpses?” asked Vische quietly.
The captain touched one of the nearby bodies the moment Vische opened her mouth. The moment he did, it disappeared entirely. All the blood and evidence that accompanied the murder vanished without a trace.
“I’m sorry Vische, I didn’t catch that. What were you saying?”
“U-uhm, it was nothing, Captain, nothing at all.”
“Great. Alright you two, let’s head on back to base.”
A giggle entered Haloria’s ears as she lay upon her bed. While it wasn’t anything she found unnatural, it certainly wasn’t something that she heard every day. Curiosity got the better of her, but she was far too tired to turn onto her side, so she craned her head and looked at her roommate-cum-coworker.
“You certainly seem to be in a good mood today.”
“Is it really that obvious?” asked Vische, with another giggle.
“Of course. Just how long do you think the two of us have known each other?” Haloria smiled. “So? What happened.”
“See for yourself!”
Vische thrusted the parchment she was holding onto in the other girl’s direction. At first glance, it didn’t appear to be any sort of important document. In fact, it was likely the opposite. The only thing on the page was a sort of bizarre scribble.
“What’s that supposed to be?”
“It’s an autograph! I got it from the guy with the mask, the one our king hired!”
Like Haloria, Vische was a part of the secret service. Her function was to fulfill the king’s will and enact it throughout the demon realm. That said, unlike many of the other members, Vische wasn’t exactly what one could call talented when it came to the art of espionage. She wasn’t particularly powerful. Her talents lay not in sheer numbers, but rather in the rare special ability she possessed. It was a unique skill, one called Farsight.
Effectively speaking, Farsight was a combination of clairvoyance and truesight. It allowed her to perceive any sort of information she wished to see. To Vische, walls were irrelevant. She could even perceive the quality and quantity of one’s mana.
And for that, King Phynar had recognized her abilities. He had immediately hired her, put her through the wringer, and paired her with his most trusted retainers. As she had recently completed the last of her formal training, she had finally been sent on missions. She had even participated in an attack on an important enemy base.
Using a larger amount of magical energy made it easy for Vische to identify enemies, even within a crowd. As such, the king had tasked her with exactly that. She had disguised herself as a member of Destia Trome’s staff and used her position to identify all of their foes.
That was why she had ended up witnessing the masked man’s battles. And, ultimately speaking, that was why she had found herself completely captivated. He was powerful, truly and immensely powerful. She fully understood why King Phynar had gone out of his way to request his assistance.
The way he flaunted his power was flamboyant. His actions were so needlessly exaggerated that she felt the need to label him ostentatious. He intentionally took a hit just so he could demonstrate how much stronger he was than his opponent. And that wasn’t all. He had insulted said opponent further by stepping all over his face before taunting the audience. It was ridiculous. He conducted himself in a manner befitting an incorrigible villain.
And yet, she still found herself fascinated. Because she understood. That wasn’t who he really was. It was intentional. It was all an act, an act so brilliant, so intentionally well crafted that she considered it a work of art. She was so enthralled by his performance that she couldn’t help but ask for his autograph the moment it was her turn to serve as his guide.
“Uhm… good for you, I guess,” said Haloria in a bit of a confused tone.
“It really is!” Vische grinned. “You worked with him directly, right? What was he like?”
“Hmm… well… I believe the best way to describe him would be to call him an eccentric.”
“E-Eccentric? Why’s that?”
“Everything he did was so bizarre and abnormal that I am not sure how else to describe him.” Haloria shrugged. “He was exactly what our king was looking for in the sense that he was truly capable of attracting a copious amount of attention.”
The exhaustion that accompanied Haloria’s description led Vische to chuckle. Thinking back, she realized that he certainly was exactly as she described. She understood that the man who fought in the arena was not truly the man behind the mask. Still, she felt as if he was a far cry from the norm. He was simply different.
“Though, there was one other thing I noticed,” said Haloria. “Being around him was strangely comforting. I’m not quite sure why, but being in his company felt as if it was enough to put me at ease.”
“Oh, I know what you mean!” said Vische. “I think that’s just a property of his magical energy. It’s really calming, and it was radiating off of him the whole time.”
Looking at him with Farsight had informed Vische that the man behind the mask wasn’t nearly as exaggerated and aggressive as his battles had implied. The aura that stemmed from his body was much more soothing than it was aggressive and showy. Though the amount of magic he had was ridiculous, seeing it hadn’t intimidated her. In fact, it had the exact opposite effect. His mana was so warm and mellow that she had felt the urge to continue gazing into it for as long as she could.
Farsight told no falsehoods. The only thing it relayed to her was the undeniable truth. The essence that made up his being was one of positivity. Her understanding of that side of him was the only reason a girl as timid as herself was able to approach him without recoiling in terror.
“I suppose that must be the case if you’re the one saying it,” said Haloria. “I think that is enough chatting for one night. We both have to get up early tomorrow, and we’re far too overworked to waste what little time we have to rest.”
“Right. Good night, Haloria.”
“Good night, Vische.
With a smile on her face, Vische put out the candle illuminating the room and allowed herself to drift off into the land of dreams.