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Kala let out a quiet sigh as the carriage glided down the road. Calvin’s public outreach program was very successful in making Gadvera and Kala in particular very popular with the native population, but getting through to the men in charge was a much more daunting task.

Nadia blew any chance I ever had of entering the palace. Ever since the sadomasochistic bitch had stepped foot inside, they’d been on lockdown, and because Baroke was Gadveran, they looked at her extra suspiciously.

Why does he give her so much attention when she’s so…Kala untightened her fist when she felt the armrest of her seat cracking.

The Ilethan Princess had done what she’d set out to do, on the other hand. Her brother had hidden himself away from politics while he recovered from his ‘hideous deformity’, giving Kala a chance to grease palms and bend ears while the fop cowered in his room.

A wash, I guess.

Perhaps rather than the palace, when Calvin was done undermining Orson, she could pressure him to move her residence to one of the six neutral Uleisan oligarchs. He’d fight tooth and nail, but hopefully Calvin had given him bigger problems than her.

Kala glanced out the window and didn’t recognize the district she was currently being driven through.

That’s not good, She thought, straightening to look out the window. From the angle of the sun, they were headed toward the West of the city.

Maybe he’s just lost, A quiet voice inside Kala spoke, and was quickly squashed. In her line of work, Coincidences were rare.

“Ella, There might be trouble.” Kala said quietly, poking the Genosian drooling on the seat beside her. Ella woke up with a start, blinking sand out of her eyes as she looked around the room.

“Sorry, this dress feels like being hugged all over.” Ella said, smacking her lips as she came fully alert. “What was that? trouble?”

Kala held her finger over her mouth, and Ella tensed, meeting Kala’s eyes with her own yellow-green ones. Once she had the Genosian’s complete attention, Kala rapped on the roof to get the driver’s attention.

“Yes’m?” The driver asked.

It’s the same voice. That’s generally a good sign.

“Where are we going?”

“West gate, Ma’am. I got the order while you were in the meeting. We’ll meet Orson outside the city.

“Outside the city?” Kala murmured to herself. There was no way this was a good thing. Now to perform a little test of how bad it is.

“I’m afraid I need to impose. Womanly concerns have raised their heads, and I’d like to pick up something from my room, head there first.” Kala said.

“Womanly concerns?” Ella silently mouthed at her, raising a brow.

Kala shrugged. Womanly concerns were kind of a catch-all.

“I’m sorry ma’am, but I was told to bring you there as soon as possible.”

Okay, we’re in the top two-thirds of bad possibilities. One more push.

“Kevain, I need to go to the mansion. If you put the Guar into a trot, we can save enough time that no one will notice.”

“I’m sorry, Princess, I can’t,” Their driver said.

So, it’s pretty bad.

Kala leaned over and whispered to Ella. “I don’t think we’ll be staying in the carriage much longer.”

The large Genosian girl nodded, grabbing the armrest and wrenching it free with a quiet crack.

There was a knock on the side of the door, and Kala slid the window open to see. Kala got an eyeful of sole.

Kala wrenched her head back as a man eeled feet first into the carriage in a single smooth motion, landing in the seat across from her in a fraction of a second.

“Good afternoon, Princess Kala. And guest.” He said, nodding to her. Kala glanced at the window, then at the man’s shoulders, then the window.

It didn’t seem possible, but then again, Skills made a great many impossible things happen all the time.

“Who are you?” Kala asked, before Ella gripped her knee in warning. Kala glanced over and saw that Ella was tensed, looking like she might leap out of her seat at any moment.

“My name is Ussein. No last name, unfortunately. I’ve been instructed by my employer to be your bodyguard during our little outing.

Bodyguard or prison-guard?

Kala’s left hand balled into a fist. Damnit, Calvin, THIS is why I didn’t want you to do anything extreme.

Kala appraised him. He barely fit in the carriage and exuded an air of strength that screamed Legend.

Kala would be hard-pressed to beat him, especially from this close a range.

Especially while I’m sober. Kala thought. She reached for her pipe under the seat, and saw the man reach for his belt, which seemed to be made of glass looped around his body.

“I’m too sober for this…difficult situation,” Kala said by way of explanation, sure to maintain her princess demeanor.

“I’d rather you sat on your hands until we reach our destination.” Ussein said, eyes narrowed.

“Or what? You’ll hurt your precious hostage?” Kala asked, reaching in her purse for something to smoke. “What do you think, Ussein?” She said as she rifled through the leather satchel full of drugs.

“Wet Dream? I haven’t tried that yet.”

“Probably not a good idea in a carriage with a stranger.” Ussein said dourly.

“What a gentleman. I’ve got Corpse Vine, Jush Powder, Primo Longweed. Doran’s Havok –“

Ussein snatched the bag out of her hand, nearly causing her to drop her pipe.

“Hey!” Kala shouted, holding a hand in front of Ella so she didn’t react violently.

“A princess should not have Doran’s Havok.” He said, pulling out the vial of tan dust and examining it. “This stuff is Illegal in every country. It’s used for assassinations. Where did you get it?”

Kala shrugged.

“Fine.” He dug through Kala’s purse, his brows rising at the sheer quantity of mind-altering substances.

“Here,” he said, handing her the top-shelf Gravedigger’s Crust. “It’s a depressant. I don’t want you bouncing off the walls with Speed.”

Gravedigger’s Crust. It supposedly let you see the dead, but no one had ever confirmed it. Mostly it just made you dopey, according to what she’d heard. Kala hadn’t tried it yet, because she hadn’t had need of speaking to the dead.

“Just this? Give me the Jush powder too.” Kala said, pushing for everything she could get. Jush powder, at least, she knew was capable of giving her useful information about this Ussein Fellow.

Ussein seemed to consider this for a moment. The man knew that Jush powder produce harmless hallucinations, so he shouldn’t be particularly against it.

“Okay, but you better blow that shit out the window. I get one whiff of it, I’m confiscating your pipe.” He handed her the vial of Jush powder.

Kala took a chunk of the sticky, lichen-like Gravedigger’s Crust and packed it into her pipe before topping it with a generous sprinkle of Jush powder.

“Can I get a light?” She asked. A second later, the center of her bowl turned cherry red. Kala took a deep puff, slid the window open and exhaled.

“Ah, that’s better,” Kala said, relaxing back in to her seat. A minute later, everyone began to glow a flickering orange, slowly gaining in brightness as the drugs hit her system.

Ancestor Sight.

Kala directed her eyes toward Ussein, and the orange glow separated from his body, and resolved into an older Uleisian man, wearing a similar belt, and watching her captor with crossed arms and a scowl.

So that’s what this combination does. Kala thought, eyeing the ghost.

The old man glanced over at her, then did a double take, before waving his hand in front of Kala’s face.

Can you see me? A voice echoed in the back of her mind.

Interesting. This could be useful.

“Yeah, I can see you.”

***Ussein***

I never in my life thought a princess would carry enough drugs with her to kill a small village, Ussein thought, shaking his head as the girl slouched back in the seat, all decorum set aside, the extra-long bong nestled in her lap.

“Yeah, I can see you,” the princess said to no one in particular, her eyes vacant. “Who are you? Really? What’s that like?”

There was a long pause, and Kala took another small hit, blowing it out the window.

“How can I help?”

“I guess she’s taken care of for the rest of the trip.” Ussein said, glancing over to the iron-skinned genosian holding the armrest like a club. “Are you going to be a problem?”

The girl put up a damn good fight last time, but she didn’t have others to back her up this time around. No matter how good her defence was, she wouldn’t win a fight between them.

“Not as long as you stay on that side of the carriage.” The Genosian said, baring her teeth at him.

Ooh, scary, Ussein thought, resisting the urge to roll his eyes. Gotta stay professional.

“Your terms are acceptable.”

The princess let out a strange chuckle, followed by a burp.

“No way, a buried family heirloom? Get outta here. Really? You’re sure about that? He doesn’t look like a momma’s boy. Oh…Shit…that sucks.”

Ussein glanced at the strange princess, blinking. “Does she do that a lot?”

“Sometimes,” The Genosian said, shrugging.

***Calvin, 2 weeks later***

Calvin did everything he could to level his skills before the response from Uleis came, while his Kncik-knacks turned the castle into his own personal playground of death.

Calvinian Summoning has reached level 18!

Dupdomancy has reached level 18!

Sense-Grafting has reached level 15!

+1 Intuition

  • Offensive Grafting

Once his magic skills were as high as he could reasonably get them, Calvin spent the last three days Shadow-boxing Beli Ma and Stealth in between physical exercises.

His defence was sorely lacking, and Stealth was the essence of not getting caught. It could definitely be considered a form of defence.

Calvin focused on Beli Ma first, and with with Karen’s over-enthusiastic help and the looming threat, he was able to push it to level ten. Stealth on the other hand, stalled out at level 9, without expert guidance inside Shadowboxing.

+1 Endurance, Strength, Kinesthetics.

Beli Ma has reached level 10!

+1 Stability

-With Interest

Calvin was tempted to take Dragon Clutches Pearl to bolster his Wizard-on-Wizard staying power, but his recent Bent-free fight with average soldiers had revealed that his close-quarters combat was simply above average, and without Bent, he could be easily overwhelmed by numbers. With Interest was a great way of countering an attack with lethal force, allowing him to dispatch each person who attacked him in an instant.

Like Karen said, one person successfully fighting multiple opponents, is simply fighting them one on one incredibly quickly.

….

Stealth has reached Level 9!

***

Who do I know that’s sneaky? Calvin thought to himself as he surveyed the labyrinthine tunnels under the castle, his night vision piercing the darkness. The problem with locating a master of sneakiness to tutor him was kind of self-evident: They were very hard to find.

The three escape tunnels sloped downward, with Knick-Knack-precise rails that allowed carts to zoom down them at staggering speeds.

There were three escape tunnels leading in three different directions, each about a half-mile out, on three different sides of the underground complex, in case the tunnels were infiltrated.

Let’s face it. At some point, they’re probably going to get people in here. Worst case scenario, it’ll be right off the bat.

It’s far better to overestimate your enemy than to underestimate him, Karen’s lessons kept coming back to haunt him.

She’s not wrong. Anybody who lives through that much shit is probably doing something right.

It took roughly ten thousand dead men to make every living Legend. This wasn’t taking into account multiple legends accessing the same Warp overload on the same battlefield, but the idea was solid: Legends lived through extreme circumstances.

In the spirit of surviving some extreme circumstances, the entire battlefield, the fort and each quadrant around it, were connected via tunnels to five airtight chest-sized chambers underground, their systems kept separate from Calvin’s tunnels.

Each one had a little pictogram of the fort and the area the chamber was connected to.

All Calvin had to do was create bad air or Miasma inside that chamber, and the expanding gas would shoot through the tunnels and erupt under the feet of the intended victims.

Let’s see, three escape routes, Gas delivery systems… and yes, there is a toilet. Bent is almost full. I’m about as ready as I’ll ever be.

I really wish you’d had an extra slot to grab a HK-600. They could tear through these people like nobody’s business. Plus you’re not associated with them.

Me too. Maybe I’ll take Variety is the Spice of Death next.

If Calvin could just use his Fever wasps with Atom Ant, he could make several thousand killer wasps the size of a fist with the strength of an angry, large dog. That would cause serious damage over time, plus the Bad Penny mutation would keep them going even if they lost a significant fraction of them. It was his most powerful killing ability, point for point.

I guess I’ll just have to settle for explosives, being the master of ‘transmutation’ that I am.

“Calvin!” He heard Grant shout from the distant entry hole.

And there he goes, using my name.

“WHAT!?” Calvin shouted back.

“Trouble! You’re gonna want to get eyes on this!”

Calvin sprinted toward the entryway and climbed the ladder, where Grant was waiting for him with a tightly controlled urgency.

“What is it?” Calvin asked, looking around. It didn’t look like anyone was near enough to have hear the aging Ilethan.

“Uleis is here, and it’s pretty clear they don’t plan on bargaining. Seven Wastes is pulling out already.”

“Let’s see it.” Calvin said, rushing after Grant to the top of the wall, pssing by hastily packing mercenaries who were marching over a ramp and jumping down on the mountain-side of the fort, abandoning ship like rats before hauling ass up the steep mountain.

Calvin made it to the top, and even without a spyglass, he could see the dark smudge on the horizon, slowly coming into view.

“That’s a lot of dudes. Do you think that’s more than fifty thousand?”

“Maybe, yeah.” Grant nodded.

“Damn.” Calvin saw a small part of the smudge that looked different. “Can I get the spyglass?”

“Knock yourself out.” Grant said, handing him his fancy telescope.

Calvin held it to his eye, and scanned the approaching army, still a little too distant to make out the individual, but he could see the banners of individual units…matter of fact…

“What the hell is the banner for the first Mujenan Volunteers doing there at the front?” Calvin demanded.

“If I had to guess?” Grant said, rubbing his chin. “They’re fairly sure you’re responsible for their problems, but don’t have enough evidence or public support to straight up arrest you, so they’re using your men as hostages.”

“Those dicks!” Calvin shouted, putting the glass back to his eye… Sure enough, there was the flag of Gadvera, near the back, where Kala presumably was. This seriously makes me reconsider holding back the wasps.

“Says the guy plotting mass murder.”

Calvin grinned at Grant. “I didn’t make them come here. I see this more as mass assisted suicide.” He glanced back down at the approaching army that wouldn’t likely get here until tomorrow morning. “Although, this recent development does make things tricky.”

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About the author

Macronomicon

  • Alaska

Bio: Born in Alaska, raised in Alaska, where the nearest job is 60 miles away. approaching 30 years old, happily married homebody diving head first into writing professionally . Looking to make friends and fans, meet artists and get feedback.

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