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Kingdom of Bluewood, Imperial Capital

A tall muscular bald elf wearing pure black plate mail with a crest of a twin-tailed scorpion strolled past the featureless Lifeguards of the Emperor, his plated boots clanking as he walked down the narrow spiral stone steps and entering into an underground hall. The globes of light moss lit the way for him as he pushed the heavy stout wooden door open and entered a stone chamber of horrors.

Dozens of tables and wall racks hung naked people of all races, sex, and ages in various poses of agony. Some had their eyelids cut away, and forced to watch various kinds of torture inflicted on their bodies, while others had their tongues removed. The black armored elf stood before a table filled with instruments of torture and gently removed his plated gloves, and slapping them on top of the table, ignoring the screams of the condemned.

The Emperor bent over the wriggling body of Sturm, eagle spread over a rack with steel bars securing his arms and legs and watched his mage drawing lines of arcane symbols that confound and distort the mind. Sturm's mouth was opened in agony, a dark bloodied pit of emptiness as his tongue and teeth were all forcibly removed. His eyelids were also cut away, forcing him to watch the dark mage drawing magic runes on his body with the blood of the sacrificed.

Once the hooded mage was done with his art, he bowed to the Emperor who smiled and patted Sturm's shoulder in an assuring way. "My dear Sturm, well let this be as enjoying to me as to you." The Emperor then turned and nodded to his mage who started to whisper some form of chant which crawled the insides of the mind if one were to listen closely to it.

Suddenly Sturm jerked upwards, despite the steel bands holding his body, he bent up in an arc, thick veins appeared over his head and body as he contorted in pain and suffering. Underneath his skin, worm-like veins were wriggling all over his body and his body turning red and his temperature went up higher and higher.

The Emperor tilted his head as he watched in fascination at the changes occurring to Sturm's body. The skin of Sturm grew taut and turn dark shiny brown, his muscles growing abnormally, while his pupils turn red and sharp teeth grew out from his toothless gums. The metal bands holding on to his arms and legs creaked and strained as Sturm struggled and growled in suffering.

Finally, after a turn of the glass, Sturm slumped down back onto the rack, his lidless eyes staring blankly at the stone ceiling while his chest rose up and down as his body had changed to almost twice of his actual size.

The Emperor clapped his hands happily, as the mage bowed and gestured that the experiment is a success. "Well, at least you can be useful even if you have failed me after all." He turned to the newcomer and smiled, "So what do you think?"

The bald knight just gave a raised eyebrow look and said, "Won't know till he goes into the battlefield."

"Ahh, my esteemed mage here assures me that his," The Emperor gestured the changed Sturm on the rack, "Bronze Men, are more capable than our knights, one of them equaling 10 knights in strength and resistance. Normal swords and spears can barely penetrate their bronzed bodies."

The bald knight shrugged, and repeated, "Still have to see their performance on the battlefield."

"Haha," The Emperor laughed, "Then he's all yours! Since you caught him and brought him back to me. How's the situation at the border?'

The bald knight just gave a casual nod, "Not good, the two nations had allied up and are resisting rather strongly. But your Bronze Men are still tough as claimed, we should be able to force breakthrough before winter."

"And the rebels?" The Emperor stabbed the unmoving body of Sturm with a dagger. "How do you plan to deal with them?"

"I have sent the Hero down to deal with it first," The black knight replied, "The priority now is the Two Nation Alliance. The Hero should be able to deal with them, if not after we crushed the Two Nations, we can easily divert all our attention to the south, once we unite the whole New land."

"Good," The Emperor looked at the skin of Sturm were he had stabbed hard with his dagger, yet there was barely a mark seen. "I will be sending all the Bronze Men we have to be under your command.'

The black knight nodded, "I will make preparations for departure as soon as possible. Please send the Bronze Men to the Black Scorpion Legion barracks." The knight then gave a bow and departed from the stone chamber.

"Don't fail me, Rock..." The Emperor advised at the disappearing back of the knight and smiled at his mage. "Now, who is next?" He rubbed his hands together in glee.

-----

Uncharted Forest, 479 km from Sawtooth Mouth Pass

"GO, GO, GO!" Tyrier yelled as he fired at the approaching blue-coated soldiers mounted on dragons. He pushed the frightened ex-slave as he aimed at the charging dragons. His single shots snapping the soldiers off their saddles.

"Come on!" Altied helped one of the fallen ex-slaves up from the ground and urged the rest to run faster. "Where the hell did those blue boys come from?"

"I have no idea!" Doth yelled over the dim of gunfire, as he crouched next to tree root and fired single shots at the dragon cavalry. "I thought we are dealing with that Hero guy only!"

Unknown to Claymore One, the Hero and his party had managed to track the escaping slaves and Dante sent Stab back to Falledge to the garrison to bring reinforcements. Stab had shown up at the garrison and showed a letter to the garrison commander who immediately after reading it, turned pale and followed all instructions given by Stab.

It took the garrison's cavalry 3 days to catch up with the Hero and his party who followed behind the convoy and they took the opportunity to attack the ex-slaves when they stopped to setup camp.

"Go!" The men of Claymore One held the rear and proceded in a tactical withdrawal, buying time for the non-combatants to escape. Due to their firepower, they managed to stall and even led the pursuing cavalry into an ambush which decimated more than half their numbers.

"Doth!" Tyrier yelled, "You gotten in contact with HQ?" He dropped down behind a massive tree root and replaced his empty magazines with a fresh one.

"Negative!" Doth yelled back from a tree further down the line. "Too much interference from the trees!"

"Damn!" Tyrier cursed, he patted his ammo pouches and found he barely had two magazines left. "Try harder! Find high ground!" He yelled back to Doth who nodded and dashed off somewhere.

"Ammo status?" Tyrier yelled to the rest.

"Two mags!"

"Three left!"

"Same three here!"

"Shit, at this rate we need to go melee!" Tyrier cursed to himself. "And the damn Hero hasn't shown his face yet!"

"Save the last two mags for the Hero and his party!" Tyrier ordered, "Switch to melee against the blue boys!"

Suddenly, a warcry roared out from dozens and dozens of soldiers as they charged across the trees to close in with Claymore One. "CHARGGEEEE!"

Tyrier dropped his M2 and drew his longsword, stepping over the roots of the tree he was at and skewered a charging blue coated soldier right in the chest. The boyish features of the soldier's eyes widen in shock and he crumbled down while Tyrier barely gave a second glance at the dying soldier.

Hitsu raised his palm up and two blue magic circles appeared and a crack of lightning flared out, followed by a strong smell of ozone and burnt meat as he blasted at the enemy soldiers. He blocked a spear thrust and grabbed the spear and jerked the surprised soldier holding the spear towards him and impaled his sword bayonet into the surprised soldier.

Taver leaned against the tree roots and calmly fired his M2 at the charging soldiers, at the short distance, he barely missed, each shot dropped a blue coated soldier. Altied also did the same, popping single shots at the enemy, providing cover for the rest.

Young and Loke were leading and escorting the escaping slaves, while the rest held the rear, trading spells, and gunfire. And just as suddenly as it happened, it was over, the Empire soldiers were either dead or dying, the small battlefield was littered with the dead and dying.

"Grab whatever is useful!" Tyrier ordered, "Five minutes then we retreat!"

The men quickly went forward and started to loot the bodies of the Empire soldiers, picking up swords, water skins, dried rations, and even healing items. They gathered the weapons and retreated, leaving behind broken bodies. They managed to catch up with the ex slaves and handed out the weapons and supplies to them, as they had run away when attacked, leaving behind most of their supplies of food and water.

"I think the Hero is purposely draining our strength before he will show himself," Young spoke up as he applied some medical paste on a sword cut on Tyrier's arm. "At this rate without any supplies, we will be cut down one by one."

"Damn," Tyrier looked at the frightened and exhausted ex slaves. "How many made it?"

"I did a roll call earlier," Young replied as he bandaged up the wound. "232 of them, roughly 110 people are missing or lost."

"Shit!" Tyrier flexed his bandaged armed and grimaced. "Doth! Did you managed to contact HQ yet?"

"I am still trying!" Doth was perched on top of a tree branch, the radio headset covering his ears while he fiddled with the dials of the radio. "No go!"

"Keep trying, if you managed to get to HQ, tell them we need a dust off, ammo and supplies," Tyrier ordered.

"Hitsu, find out who can fight or know how to use a sword," Tyrier ordered next, "Issue out the swords we got from the Empire." Hitsu nodded and started yelling to the ex slaves who were huddled up together.

'Tavel, check our total ammunition amount," Tyrier said next to Tavel, "Redistrub the ammo evenly out."

A smallish girl with white hair and fluffy ears suddenly stood before Tyrier who looked up in surprise," Yes? Can I help you?"

"I can help!" The cat girl said, "I- I know how to fight with magic! My name is Kaga, Kaga Whitetail!"

"Thanks," Tyrier smiled at the cat girl who barely reached his chest height and looked like eighteen or sixteen, "Then I will like you to help protect the women and children."

"But... I know magic!" Kaga protested, "I can help kill the Empire soldiers!"

Tyrier shook his head, wondering what is happening to his world were women and children have to fight and kill just to live. "It's all good," He assured the cat girl, "I am sure your magic powers are very strong, but I rather need you to protect the rest."

Hitsu came up at this time and cleared his throat, "Boss, I got about 40 men and women here who knows how to use a sword."

"Ok, gather them together," Tyrier stood up and rubbed the head of the cat girl who frowned, "Go look after the rest." Just as Loke yelled from his vantage point.

"Contacts!" Loke yelled down from the tree he was in, he spotted more blue coats moving among the trees. "They are about five, ten minutes away!"

"Go!" Tyrier gestured Kaga towards the rest and headed to where Hitsu is gathered with the slaves that knew how to handle a sword. "Protect the rest for me ok?" He left Kage who stood there staring at him with tears forming in her eyes.

"Come on! It is a good day to die!"

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