Side Story: A Sinister Summit
Editors: Speedphoenix, Joker
“You lied to me!” An angry voice roared throughout the conference room as its owner, a young male wingbearer, smashed his fist against the table. “Nothing went according to your plans!”
Wingbearers were typically considered difficult to read given the avian nature of their visages. This one, however, wasn’t. His fury and indignance were as evident as the feathers that covered his body.
“You told me that it would be a simple operation! You were supposed to erase everyone that had gone senile and instate me as the leader of my people! You told me that it would be easy, but look at you now! A failure! My newfound title is worthless! If I were a tiger, I would be made of paper. And if I were a wolf, I would be all bark and no bite! All of my remaining tribesmen have gone and not only escaped, but joined forces with our enemies! This is not what we agreed on. You lied to me, Nagutt!”
“You’re calling me a liar? You’ve taken the words right out of my mouth.” A man dressed from head to toe in black, responded with a scoff.
“Nonsense? Your report stated that the wingbearers’ only allies were a group of weak, insignificant humans. Did it not cross your mind that a hero would be worth mentioning? You failed to so much as warn us. It’s only natural that we were unprepared. To make matters worse, you didn’t even so much as try to investigate her allegiances. The hero’s efforts and the masked man’s interference cost me half my subordinates.” The tone Nagutt spoke with made him sound calm, but he was far from it. His gaze burned with a righteous fury. Even with his murderous glare aside, his point was clear. He was blaming the wingbearer, faulting him for the numerous deaths his incompetence had derived.
“That was entirely their own fault! They wouldn’t have died if they were any less pathetic!”
“You’re a fool, an ignorant child incapable of comprehending the world around him,” said Nagutt, coldly. “Your eyes are so useless that you may as well remove them.”
“How dare you!?” The bird man toppled over a chair as rose to his feet in a display of indignance.
“See? His actions are every bit as childish as I described,” said the man in black with a look of scorn.
“Cease your bickering immediately, both of you.” It appeared that the situation was likely to rapidly degenerate, so a third man, Derrivus, stepped into the conversation. And put a prompt end to the conversation. “Do you not realize that you are before the chief?”
Derrivus’ voice carried a hint of anger. As the chief’s aide, he had no intention of allowing his men to humiliate themselves before their idol. And as neither of the two wished to incur his wrath, they both responded favorably. The man in black bowed his head submissively, while the wingbearer begrudgingly propped his chair back up and returned to his seat after twisting his beak in frustration.
“I believe returning to our previous topic of discussion is in order,” said Derrivus. “Nagutt, how are your forces faring?”
“I’ve lost too many men. I suspect we will be unable to do anything beyond reconnaissance.”
“And what of the hero?”
“We couldn’t find her corpse, so I suspect she escaped. We assume that the man in the mask had come to her rescue.”
Derrivus stopped to contemplate the possibilities as opposed to replying immediately. And as such, another individual used the opportunity to step in and have one of their questions addressed.
“There is just one thing I want to ask you.” The voice was quiet, and as it was muffled by the jet black suit of full metal armour that the speaker was covered in, it was impossible to discern its owner’s sex. Likewise, their mannerisms were equally hard to read. They had remained silent with their arms crossed throughout the conference. “Is this mysterious masked man truly as strong as you’ve made him sound?”
“He is,” said Derrivus confidently. “He single-handedly eliminated half of Nagutt’s black ops team and was able to match our chief in a contest of strength the very next day.”
“Excellent,” chuckled the suit of armour.
“You really don’t ever change.” The chief’s aide put on a bit of a sardonic smile before turning to another individual seated at the table. “Have your investigations borne any fruit?”
“We were unable to pinpoint his identity, but we have at least narrowed it down. It seems that he is most likely one of four individuals.”
The head of the investigations took a deep breath before heeding Derrivus’ order and explaining his findings. “Our first candidate is one of the king’s most well known operatives, Lunogill, the Silent Assassin. While there certainly can be an argument made for his identity, we lacked the evidence to conclude that it was him, so we began expanding our list. As we did, we realized that Shanadia, the blademaster sworn to Phynar’s demihuman allies, and the dragonewt warrior in his service, J’nadelle, both appeared equally likely. Our final candidate is a dungeon master named Yuki. Unfortunately, we were unable to procure evidence that affirmed any of our suspicions regardless of the candidate.”
“I see your point. The Silent Assassin, the Blademaster, and the warrior certainly all do appear as likely candidates.” Derrivus furrowed his brows. “There is one name that I am not familiar with. Who is this… Yuki?”
“He is the demon lord that interfered with our plot to seal Allysia’s fate. He is known for wearing masks and making use of a long, sword-like weapon. Truth be told, he is the least likely of our candidates.”
“And why is that? Your description of him perfectly matches the description of the man our chief fought.”
“Yuki is a demon lord. He rules a labyrinth, a dungeon. Dungeon masters are tied to their cores, and they must defend them at all costs. If that alone is not enough to convince you that he is the least likely candidate, then I would like to make mention of his dungeon’s location. It lies deep within the Wicked Forest’s depths.”
“…So it lays near where the legendary Supreme Dragon annihilated our black-scaled ally?” He smiled bitterly; his expression almost seemed to reek of distaste.
“The Wicked Forest’s inner sanctum is a dangerous place, and it would still be one even without the Supreme Dragon’s presence. The monsters that inhabit it are 2 to 3 times more powerful than those that do not. I sent several of my best men to investigate the area, but not a single one of them has ever returned. I believe it’s safe to conclude that he has no intention of leaving the area given that his core is in a perpetual state of danger.”
“That appears contradictory. Did you not just say that he was in Allysia?”
“With all due respect sir, I would like to remind you of the fact that the Wicked Forest is far closer to the Allysian Kingdom than it is the Demon Realm. Our grasp on his abilities appears to indicate that he would be able to make his way to the kingdom in a matter of hours. Travelling to the demon realm, however, would require him several days of effort. And that, sir, does not even account for the extended stay that would have to accompany participating in the event.”
“I certainly do see your point. It simply would not make sense for the lord of a labyrinth to abandon his domain,” Derrivus muttered. “His identity aside, the man behind the mask is sure to become a major obstacle. Let us exercise due diligence and further our efforts t—”
“Leave him be.”
The aide’s words were refuted by none other than the very master he served. Gojim, who had silently remained in the seat of honour with his face propped up by a fist, had finally spoken.
While Phynar certainly did know a lot about the fiends, there was one thing that he had been wrong about. While Gojim’s subordinates certainly did do their best to follow his orders to the letter, they did know how to think for themselves. Carrying out the chief’s orders was a rare occasion to all.
Gojim was a figurehead, but not one that went unrespected. To those that served him, his words were their will. But he gave so few orders that they were essentially left to their own devices. For Gojim, the average day consisted of allowing his subordinates to do whatever they pleased. The only time he ever made important decisions was when he absolutely had to, like when the man in the mask had pressured him into a public duel.
It wasn’t as if he was irresponsible. In fact, it was exactly the opposite. Gojim understood that fighting was all he was good at. The only thing he could possibly do for his people was stand as their champion in combat. Needlessly sticking his nose into his subordinates’ realms of expertise would do nothing but hinder them and worsen the end result. That was why the chief did nothing, nothing but sit around, wait for his subordinates to report to him, and bear the weight of their actions on his shoulders.
He played his role as chief well. The charismatic aura he carried was so powerful and domineering that others naturally flocked to him and sought to be placed under his wing.
“A-are you sure, chief?” stuttered Derrivus.
“He’s already retreated from the public eye. I doubt he will be bothering us for some time to come,” said Gojim. “We have more important things to do than digging up his whereabouts. He’s sure to show up on his own in due time. We may as well set him aside until it’s absolutely necessary that he be dealt with.”
“…If that is your will.” Derrivus didn’t look happy with the decision, but he acknowledged his orders and accepted them. “Is there anything else you wanted to say, chief?”
“I suppose I did want to say one thing.” The lord of the fiends spoke in a slow, deliberate manner. “Our plans have been inhibited. We had thought of Destia Trome as an opportunity. And yet, we found ourselves weaker than we were before it. Phynar has attacked our fortresses and raided our facilities. We have been able to do nothing to stop him. Our plans are in need of revision. It is necessary that we carefully scrutinize each and determine its value. Do not overlook anything. Consider every fundamental aspect.”
The entire room was silent. Every individual present was listening to Gojim’s speech with full attention.
“The obstacle in our path is but trivial in the face of our goals. Nothing has changed. We will continue to follow our creed. We must.”
His words were soft, but heavy. He spoke quietly, but each word dripped with passion as thick as honey; the fervor that drove him spread throughout the conference room and ensnared those that heard his voice. None could stay calm. Each individual’s chest was soon filled with passion.
“For those who have fallen, we must not stop. We must never stop. It is our duty to carry out their will and see our ambitions through. We must march on. For conquest.”
Voices echoed through the room as every individual repeated the chief’s final words. The situation had appeared to indicate that they were at an all time low. And yet, their hearts soared as high as the sky. Because they knew. It was time to work. It was time for them to exhaust every last fibre of their beings in order to achieve the goal—the dream—that they had always chased.