The room was filled with tense silence despite the number of people gathered together. Mills sat on the table, rolling the empty brass cartridge which killed the assassin, to and fore between his hands.

The door suddenly swung open and a priestess and her assistants entered the room. Almost instantly, everyone's eyes were on the trio and the priestess was startled by the sudden attention.

"Oh... Her Ladyship is now resting. She has suffered some bruises to her throat and will not be able to speak properly for a while," The priestess said. "Let her rest as she had suffered a near death experience."

With that, the priestess and her assistants gave a bow while the head butler saw them off the estate. The tension in the room quickly disappeared, only to be replaced with anger and uncertainty.

Knight Captain Judis slammed his palms hard on the table and growled, "This act must be done by them!"

"Who?" Mills asked as he slipped the empty cartridge into his breast pocket.

"Who else?" Judis hissed. "It must be done by her two brothers!"

The room turned cold as everyone digested the news. Mills raised another question. "Do we have proof?"

"Proof?" Judis snorted. "Her two brothers were always after the seat of the Rothschild. They had schemed and plotted for so long against her! If she dies, they will stand to profit from this all!"

"But I thought there are also a few more rival Houses against her?" Mills added. "And what of the assassin? She said something like stalker or shadow..."

"They are known as the Stalkers," The female guard who earlier pointed her blade at Mills said. "They live in the shadows and are a dark guild of assassins and thieves!"

"Can we find them?" Mills asked. "And find out who employed them to kill Tit- Lady Titanna?"

Judis shook his head. "It is impossible... No one knows where they gather nor who are the members of the Stalker Guild."

"Than how do people contact them for a job?" Mills frowned. "If they are so hidden, how do people get them to work for them?"

"You have to arrange with a middle man and they will bring you to a secret meeting place," Judis explained. "But you will be blindfolded all the way and until they are sure you are alone, will they then appear to meet you."

"You sound like you know quite a bit, eh?" Mills said.

"I- I have used their services a couple of times in the service of the Rothschilds," Judis quickly explained. "Some things are best left for them to do it."

"You just don't wanna dirty your own hands," Mills shook his head.

Judis narrowed his eyes at Mills's words. "You do not know how much influence they have."

"Okay, so now, all we know is they want to kill Lady Titanna," Mills ignored Judis. "And they had failed."

"They will not rest until they completed the job..." Judis added. "We need to protect Lady Titanna at all costs!"

"How about..." Mills gave a grin. "We let lose a rumor that Lady Titanna had died?"

"You want to bluff the Stalkers?" Judis asked. "But they will find out sooner or later!"

"As long we find out who is behind all this, we can put a stop to it!" Mills said. "Also, I think letting our enemies think they have won, for now, will make them let their guard down."

"That is... true..." Judis sighed. "But why go to so much trouble? Her two brothers are the culprits!"

"Well, from what you all been telling me," Mills said. "I don't think they are that stupid to do something like this now."

"Than who could it be?" Judis frowned.

"I might have an idea who sent the assassin," The door opened and the Intel Officer called Trism declared as he entered. His statement had everyone's eyes following him as he joined them on the table.

"I'll was out there gathering some news and intelligence about our situation here and I heard a few interesting bits of information," Trism said. "I hurried back as fast as I could, but I guess you all had the situation under control."

Both Mills and Judis shook their heads together and realized they did the same thing, they both stopped and quickly looked away from each other.

"Ahem..." Trism cleared his throat and continued. "We have a few suspects now, like her two brothers, Alberto and Mallot Rothschild."

"But, I believe there is someone else behind pulling the strings," Trism said. "Because, from what I heard out in the streets, the two brother's reputation wasn't any worth mentioning."

"On the contrary," Trism added. "Lady Titanna's reputation is pretty good out there. She's known to be strict but just and fair in her actions and the people actually preferred her to be the next City Lord."

"Her brothers both know that too, and I am sure they would not want to be branded a kin slayer as well," Trism said. "It might cause the local population to... violently reject their rule if it was known that they killed her..."

"So who will benefit from all this if it really happens?" Trism poised the question out.

"HOUSE TARON AND DEFLIN!" Judis banged the table with his fists again. "HOW DARE THEM?"

"Ok, some explanation is needed," Mills quickly said. "I don't understand."

"House Taron and Deflin is the next two Great Houses that held the next greatest amount of strength and influence after House Rothschild," Judis said. "But we the House Rothschild had always overshadowed them!"

"In other words," Trism explained. "We got two jealous and power hungry Houses wanting to take over the city and at the same time, take some revenge on been suppressed by Rothschild for many years."

"Yes," Judis nodded. "Something like that I guess..."

"So this is a ploy to like... kill Lady Titanna, than put the blame on the brothers?" Mills scratched his head. "Isn't it too simple to be discovered by the people?"

Trism laughed and shook his head. "Sergeant, you are forgetting, we do not have the 'tek no logi' of you hoomans to spread information and finding of the truth!"

"Oh, right!" Mills gave an awkward grin. "Hehe, I forgot..."

"Anyway..." Trism continued. "I think before we do anything first, we need to lock down all the information in and out of the Estate!"

"No one in or out without permission and a full search," Trism said. "And we need to do it now, but someone leaks the news!"

Judis glanced at Mills who gave a shrug, "I'm not fielded in counterintelligence."

"We have no time!" Trism said forcibly. "We need to stop any chance of someone leaking the news out now!"

"Alright," Judis finally nodded and gestured his aides to carry out the work.

"Also, bring back that priestess and her assistants!" Trism called out. "Invite them to stay with us till the whole thing is over!"

The aide paused and looked at Judis for confirmation who nodded again before he ran off to carry out his orders.

"What's next?" Judis asked.

"Check every servant, slave, maid, guard or soldier. Do a loyalty test with magic or whatever, but make sure there is no one else with utter motives." Trism said. "Weed out the spies."

"Consider that done!" Judis replied in a dangerous voice.

"Next, I like you to set up a meeting with the Stalkers for me," Trism said. "I like to talk to them."

"But..." Judis was surprised. "They might not meet you..."

"Oh, don't worry," Trism smiled. "I got something that will make them very interested in talking with me!"

"I... understand," Judis replied.

"Please try to get the meeting done before the coming ball," Trism added. "Hopefully we can settle everything on that night!"


Tyrier stood at a relax pose outside the room and straightened up as people started filing out. He wore a combat harness over a set of local clothing with a rifle held at the ready. "How was it?"

"Not good," Mills frowned. "We need to step up security."

"How did an assassin sneaked into the Rothschild's Estate?" Tyrier asked. "I thought they had all those magic formations and guards to prevent such a thing."

"Seems like that assassin was kinda like a sleeper cell," Mills replied. "She was planted here years ago and acting like a regular person."

"Wow," Tyrier gave a low whistle. "This... Stalker Guild is really something if they planned something like that..."

"Yes," Mills nodded. "Now the fun part, we have to find out if there are still more of these Stalkers hidden among the staff here..."

"Oh, great... that will be fun!" Tyrier sighed. "Know who wanted to kill your girl?"

"Not yet, but we have some idea of who," Mills said. "Oh, I am going to need you and your boys to help guard Titanna."

"Sure, no problem," Tyrier nodded. "I will assign them immediately."

"So how is she?" Tyrier asked after he settled the guard duty with his men.

"Alive," Mills said soberly. "Thank god..."

"That's good," Tyrier grinned. "Heard you blew the brains out of that killer."

"Yea..." Mills said. "I... just did what I had to do, you know?"

"Good job," Tyrier nodded understandingly and patted Mills's shoulder. "You saved her with CPR too."

"Yea... must to the fury of her maids and guards," Mills grinned. "But thank god, she's alive... I felt like... something just lifted off my chest... Hell, I didn't felt this way when I first shot her off her ride!"

"Some one is in love," Tyrier grinned. "Don't worry, my boys will keep her safe!"

"There you two are!" Trism walked over. "Mission briefing at my office now."

Once the door to Trism's temporarily office was closed, he jumped straight to the point. "Our mission here is to ensure her safely and our interests."

"Now, clearly we nearly failed in our first mission," Trism said. "But still good work at stopping the assassin, Sergeant Mills. You saved us a whole lot of troubles. Still, do what you need to protect her."

"Double the guards, and keep an eye on the Ladyship," Mills said. "Got it."

"Next, to prevent further such incidents we are going to need to crack down on who is the perpetrator to this," Trism said. "Knight Captain Judis will be arranging a meeting with the Stalkers, and I will personally go meet with them. I will drop a tracker on them and see where it will lead us."

"You want to find where the headquarters of the Stalker Guild?" Mills asked with raised eyebrows.

"Yes," Trism said. "Once we identify where their HQ is located. Claymore One will infiltrate their HQ and target their leaders and retrieve any critical information back."

"That is pretty ambitious," Tyrier frowned. "We barely have any intel on their numbers and strength. Not to mention what kind of arcane formations they have protecting their HQ."

"I know," Trism said. "That is why we need to move as fast as possible. I will continue to sound out more on the capabilities of the Stalkers."

"But still," Tyrier frowned. "It is risky..."

"You are trained for this, soldier!" Trism waved away his misforgivings. "I trust you and your team's skills!"

"Tyrier... I agree with Lieutenant Trism. I know it's risky but time is running short," Mills said. "We need to finish this before the ball this weekend and expose the ringleaders during that time. This will put Titanna in a good spot and instantly destroy her enemies of all their creditably!"

"I will have the Marines support your assault as backup," Mills promised. "Even if we can't get a hold of anything important, if we can destroy the Stalkers, it could scare off other potential assassins."

"Why, Sergeant Mills, I didn't think that you Marines could come out with such a cunning idea!" Trism sounded surprised. "I am impressed!"

"Erm... don't they do this all the time in movies and dramas?"

A note from neo Koh

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