Outskirts of Norshelm

"Another bust," Mills had removed his outer jacket and remained in his inner white silks, totally giving up on looking the part of a noble. "What a waste of time."

They rode in the carriage out from the mansion which was the last location they came to check out. Tyrier gave a grunt of agreement as he too was disappointed with the choices given. "Too exposed to be properly defended."

"But it is a given," Tyrier added. "After all, these are all either winter or summer estates for nobles."

"Wait!" Mills suddenly called out as he stuck his face out of the window. "What is that place?"

Mills pointed to a dilapidated structure in the distant lake where it sat on a small island by itself with a highway linking it to the mainland. Tyrier had the driver halt the carriage and they climbed out to take a look at the ruined structure.

"Hey there!" Mills stopped a small group of locals. "Could you tell me what that place is?"

"Huh?" The locals looked with suspicion at the way Mills was dressed and the strange manner of his speech. "Wha- what do you want to know?"

"What is that place?" Mills pointed to the ruins.

"Oh, that?" The local farmer rubbed the sweat off his head. "It used to be a menagerie for beasts. But a few years back, the beasts broke out and burnt the place down and killed everyone inside."

"Now, it's abandoned," The local said. "No one dares to enter that place."

"Interesting!" Mills winked at Tyrier. "Shall we take a look at that place?"

"My Lords!" The local farmers looked frightened. "You must not! No one that has gone in has ever come out alive again!"

"Why?" Mills frowned. "Is it that dangerous inside? I thought it was abandoned?"

"Yes, but it is said that the spirits of the dead haunt that place!" The farmer said in a low voice. "There are also monsters that inhabit it!"

"Really?" Mills gave a look of disbelief.

"Yes!" The locals had at this point gathered around the carriage and started sharing stories of the ruins. "Even the Adventurer's Guild had given up on that place! Too many adventurers had lost their lives in that place!"

"So there is no way in?" Mills asked.

"Well..." The locals looked at each other. "I think you need the city's Lord approval or a letter from the Adventurer's Guild..."

"Thanks!" Mills grinned and dug out a silver piece which made the locals smile widely. "Here's a tip!"

"What do you think?" Mills asked Tyrier as they returned into the carriage.

"An island by itself, plenty of water space for any flying boats to land, and just a causeway as the only way in," Tyrier grinned. "Sure, great spot, except for maybe monsters or spirits inhabiting that place now. Not to mention how run down it is..."

"True," Mills took out a pair of binoculars and peered at the ruins. "But if we can restore it to working order, it would make a good base for us!"

"Well, guess we have to talk to Lady Titanna later on."


As evening came, a weary Titanna finally returned to her estate after entertaining several notable ladies at the tea party. Still, she managed to gather some information on who was mostly neutral, who were friendly, and who were her enemies.

She knew that cutting off part of the supplies flowing to the other faction only buys her some time. The Great Houses had planned to rebel against the Rothschild's authority for some time and now with two of her idiotic brothers throwing themselves into the arms of their enemies, it was harder to stop them.

The other faction now has a legitimate reason to stand against her. Her two idiotic brothers thought that they were smart but in actual fact, they will be dancing in the palms of the two Houses! Titanna knew she was in a disadvantaged position due to her being a woman for one, made a prisoner of war and also the remaining commander of the badly defeated army.

Despite some women folk being in positions of authority, most old families frown upon such practices as males were generally preferred over women. Even with magic, women could stand toe to toe with men in battles but the culture that males were stronger than females was always there.

Titanna knew her father was grooming her to become the next head of the Rothschilds and shall he still be alive, his support would silence all those who dared speak against her. His ruthless had passed down to his sons, but only she inherited his intelligence.

She knew she was borne out of wedlock, her mother a slave, serving as a maid in the manor. Due to the difference in status, her father never married her mother and due to the stress and harassment from others, her mother passed away when she was still a child.

Her father took her in and started to groom her once he discovered her intelligence. At first, he wanted her to support whoever was the heir but her brothers turned out to be good for nothing. They terrorized the locals and exploited their powers, leading a life of extravagant.

In the end, unable to reform her brothers, her father decided to pass on the mantle to her instead. When she took partial control of the House, she cut off the amount of money her brothers could draw upon and cleaned up the mess they made, which granted back some goodwill to the Rothschilds.

Her brothers tried all means and ways to force their father to change his mind, but their father remained unmoved, knowing that if he gave in to their demands, House Rothschild will be destroyed by their hands.

This made her brothers hate her deeply and with her mother as a slave, they greatly resent her and tried to undermine her at every opportunity.

Titanna strolled into her room and her maids started undressing her and readying her bath. She slipped into the tub filled with warm water and let her body unwind. One of the maids started to rub her tired shoulders and she sighed in relaxation with the skillful massage.

"My Lady, the... Lord Mills, wishes to have a word with you," A servant reported to her as she closed her eyes while enjoying the massage. "He is awaiting just outside..."

"Tell him I will see him later," Titanna replied as she leaned back in the tub. "After my shower."

The servant bowed and left the bath to relay the message, leaving Titanna to enjoy her massage.

"Ahh..." Titanna sighed. "More to the right."

The skillful hands suddenly tightened around her throat, squeezing her airway close. Titanna spasmed in sudden fright at the unexpected action and tried to tear the hands away from her throat as she struggled for air.

"Hush..." A cold voice whispered next to her ear as her face started to turn purple from lack of oxygen. "Relax... just like what you were doing just now. Don't fight it..."

Titanna's vision started to dim and her strength weakened as oxygen to her brain was being cut off. She kicked wildly, trying to escape the iron grip around her throat and by luck or chance, she hit the corner of the bath screen which toppled over.

The bath screen was made out of jade ivory and when it fell, the screen shattered with a loud crash. The ruckus brought the rest of the maids and servants into the bath and when they saw Titanna being strangled by an assassin, they screamed.


Mills rubbed his head as the servant bowed and left after relaying Titanna's words to him. He turned and walked down the hallway when suddenly he heard muffled screams. He turned back in curiosity and saw the two female guards on duty before Titanna's room rushed in.

He paused for barely a second before he ran after the guards and he saw several maids standing at the side in fright before he noticed that Titanna was naked in a bathtub with her throat being strangled by someone.

The two guards jerked to a halt in surprise before drawing their blades and rushing forward to save their liege.

"STOP!" The assassin suddenly shouted. "Or I rip her throat out right now!"

Both guards paused and looked at each uncertainly. They circled to the sides and kept their swords ready before them. "Release our Lady now!"

Mills quickly flattened him to the side of the door leading to the bath and gestured the maids with his finger to his lips to keep his presence a secret. He drew his weapon out and thumbed back the hammer, wishing that he was carrying the more advanced and accurate Glock instead of this revolver.

He forced a peep around the corner and into the bath, seeing the female guards were flanking the assassin and Titanna's situation doesn't look very good. She weakly held onto the hands on her throat and seemed to be at the edge of losing her conscious.

The assassin suddenly switched her grip to a chokehold and hoisted the limp Titanna up from the tub and stepped back towards the closed windows.

Both guards were nervous as they saw their Lady at the mercy of the assassin and they pointed their swords at the assassin. "Stop! Let her go now and you will keep your life!"

"Ha!" The assassin gave a bark of laughter. "We, the Stalkers never fear death!"

"Nor do we fail in our missions!" The assassin suddenly said in a cold voice which sent chills down everyone's spine. "For the Shadow!"

When Mills heard that statement. he knew immediately without a doubt that the assassin will kill Titanna. He spun out from cover with his revolver thrust out, into a perfect textbook two handed Weaver stance. His support hand wrapped around his shooting hand with slightly bent elbows and putting his weight on his left forward foot and he placed the simple revolver sights directly over the head of the assassin.

His sudden appearance surprised the assassin who turned and faced him directly, giving him a clear direct shot. Without any hesitation, he squeezed the trigger gently, and the cocked hammer snap downwards smoothly and with an angry roar, the Single Action Dragon revolver spat out a 6.5 mm bullet at a velocity of 448 meters per second and shattered the nose bridge of the assassin before the bullet exited out from the back of the skull with a splatter of brain matter and blood.

Instantly the female assassin went limp and her hold loosened and both bodies dropped down on the wet floor. The two guards quickly recovered from the gunshot when they saw Titanna dropping down and they quickly pulled her away from the dead assassin who still had a look of utter surprise.

Mills lowered his smoking weapon with his ears ringing and suddenly felt his whole body shake as the adrenaline and fear left his body. He stood over Titanna while the maids and more guards appeared and stared blankly at the unmoving body of Titanna.

Removing his shirt, he draped it over her naked body, the marks on her throat turning dark purple. The guards cast healing spells on her desperately as she laid unmoving on the wet tiled floor. Mills quickly checked her pulse and found a very weak response.

He quickly stopped the guards from casting more spells and started CPR on Titanna, much to the shock and outrage of the guards and maids who had never seen such a scandalous act.

"Do you want me to save her?" Mills glared at the female guard whose sword tip as posed right at his neck. "Get that thing out of my face!"

He pumped her chest, before blowing air into her mouth to inflate her lungs and repeated while the guards and maids stared at him with uncertainty and murder in their eyes.

"Come on! Breathe!" Mills desperately performed CPR on Titanna again and again. "BREATHE!"

A note from neo Koh

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Hmmm I prolly shouldn't use the word assassins here... since its origins come from Earth...

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neo Koh


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