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The Innocence, Bridge

"What flag is that ship flying?" The Captain of the Innocence called out to his bridge crew. "Which nation is it from? The Iron Kingdoms? Tri State? Or the Dragon Lords?"

"Sir, the flag it flies bears no resemblance to any known nations!" The First Officer replied. "It could be from some small country under the Loose Confederation. We spotted two demi people below."

"Then order the Sinner to destroy it!" The Captain ordered without any hesitation. "Let those lawless heretics be judged in the afterlife!"

The First Officer nodded and relayed the order to the signaller who stood outside the bridge on an open air platform. The signaller used the sun rays and started flashing a series of codes with a mirror towards the Sinner.

A series of flashes were replied from the Sinner and it dipped lower as it reduced the amount of aetherium gas in its floatation tanks and the steam powered propellers on its sides pushed it forward towards the ocean vessel sitting in the cove.

As the Sinner came within its steam cannon range, it opened its cannon hatches and the snorts of its steam cannons poked out and popped sharply, tossing mushroom shaped projectiles wildly at its target below.

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Dijon watched the girls disappear into the foliage and muttered a prayer for them. He turned to his sailors, two who came on the earlier trip and four who joined him when they saw they had no chance to row back to the ship.

"We make a stand in the shelter of the trees and rocks here!" Dijon ordered and pointed towards a cluster of rocks and trees. Between them, they had three repeating crossbows, each a hatchet or cutlass and Dijon's remaining revolver which was part of a pair given to him as a gift. He had given one of his revolvers to Sherene and he only has enough for two reloads.

His sailors took up positions among the trees and rocks and those with the crossbows readied themselves for the approaching enemies. Dijon pointed his cutlass at the line of red clad soldiers and yelled, "Shoot them!"

The sailors worked the charging lever back and fore, spitting out thin iron bolts towards the approaching enemy. But to their dismay, the enemy soldiers took out a shield from their backpacks and continued charging forward, the shield on their arms shimmering with the glow of a magic barrier.

"How in the heavens do they each have their own personal magic barrier?" Dijon cursed. "Concentrate fire on the same target!"

The enemy started running across the beach, the soft sand making their movements slower, giving the Dijon and his men some advantage as the crossbowmen fired at the nearest target. Finally, after over half a dozen shots, the lead enemy soldier's magic barrier over his shield shattered and the soldier paused as he braced against the bolts slamming into his shield.

The enemy with the depleted shield raised his short lance up and pointed towards their positions and there was a loud pop and a gust of steam burst out from the tip of the lance. A whizz went past Dijon's ear and he ducked in reflex and saw a smoking quarrel struck into the side of a tree trunk.

"Watch out!" Dijon yelled. "They have ranged weapons!"

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Paladin Rico was in a foul mood. First, the rations on board the ship had been nothing but thin tasteless soup with hardtack and salted meat or fish for over a month. The only saving grace was there were dried fruits and watered down alcohol to break the boring fare. He did not fancy trying to pass out bricks from eating so much hard food.

Now, finally, he had gotten the chance to really stretch his body, despite the usual exercises performed on the decks. His thick boots sank into the soft sand with his weight and he clumsily ran towards the group of outlaws and faithless.

An order from the Chief had him slipping the attachable shield out from his backpack and clipping on to his left arm. He extended the shield panels and locked them in place, which also activated the runes powered by a mana stone, creating a small barrier over the runes drawn on the surface of the shield.

He saw his fellow Paladin in the lead, a guy called Winston, who was always the most enthusiastic fellow of his squad. Always the model Paladin and always the first to get into a fight. Paladin Winston braced himself as sparks erupted from his magic barrier and he fired his steam lance at the enemy.

Rico paused next to Paladin Winston and raised his steam lance, his left hand gripping the handle just before the wrist guard while his right held on the lower part of the handle where his gloved fingers were covered over the trigger lever.

He held his steam lance up to the height of his eyes, where there was a notch groove on the wrist guard and aimed down it. Rico squeezed his right hand and the pent up steam inside the lance erupted, spewing out a bolt that disappeared somewhere among the lawless.

With a flick of his wrist, he broke the steam lance handle in half and a wooden case popped out with a hiss of hot steam. With his left hand still holding on to the lance, he dug out a fresh case the size of his palm and slot it into the opening of the steam lance before snapping the weapon back.

He twisted a dial at the rear of the lance's handle where a hose was connected to a tank of compressed steam on his backpack. The air tank magically reinforced to hold compressed steam was only good for the steam lance to fire eight times before it needed to be replaced or charged.

After he reloaded, Rico quickly dashed forward again, using his shield to block the incoming projectiles while he waited for his steam lance to charge. Once the steam lance was charged fully, a small bronze lever on the charging dial will snap into place with a loud click, trapping the steam inside the lance and preventing the user to charge the lance again till the air inside the lance was discharged.

It was a safety feature introduced as there were many accidents of green recruits overcharging their steam lance in the heat of a battle and causing the steam lance to explode. It took the steam lance less than four heartbeats to fill its reservoirs and with the loud click, Rico knew his lance was ready to be fired again.

By then he and his squad almost before the cowardly outlaws and barely half dozen of his squad were down. He spotted a half naked outlaw barely just a stone throw away among the shadows of the trees, the white of his eyes a stark contrast to his tanned features.

He raised his steam lance to hip level and without needing to aim, he squeezed the lever and a hot gust of steam burst out and the deadly bolt slammed directly into the belly of the outlaw, bowling him over.

An outlaw suddenly appeared from the side, swinging a fat looking blade. Rico raised his shield in reflex and parried the downward stroke and he stabbed hard into the outlaw with the tip of his steam lance. "Die you lawless bastards!"

The sharpened muzzle of the lance easily punched a hole into the torso of the screaming outlaw and the flesh around the wound sizzled as the burning hot muzzle cooked the flesh. Thankfully, Rico was wearing his helmet which helped to block some of the smells of cooked flesh. He smiled happily, feeling a lot better now that he worked off some steam.

He pulled out his lance and gave it a hard flick, tossing out a lump of cooked meat and burnt blood. Rico barely gave a glance at the dying outlaw on the ground as he followed the rest of his squad, chasing after the remaining outlaws.

-----

Dijon cursed as his cutlass threw up another shower of sparks from the impact on the enemy's shield. He twisted his body just in time to avoid a fatal stab of the stubby lance in the enemy's hands. He could feel the hot passage of air from the tip of the lance as he created some distance from the enemy.

He flickered his eyes around, trying to spot his men, but could only see the enemy which he stopped counting at ten. He still has five bullets left in his revolver, having fired off the rest at the start to little effect on the enemy's numbers.

Dijon took a deep breath to steady himself before he broke into laughter, "Oh... I never thought I would die on a bed, old and grey! Come you ass tarts! Your granddaddy here will kill you all!"

The enemy before him cocked his beetle like head as if trying to understand his words, but Dijon ignored that as his bloodlust rosed. He charged, swinging his cutlass down again, forcing the enemy soldier to raise his shield to block. Dijon grinned as he whipped out his revolver just as the magic barrier of the shield popped into sparks.

He shoved the muzzle of his gun directly at the bug eyed helmet and squeezed the trigger. The bark of the revolver was sharper and louder than the enemies' strange guns. The bullet drilled through the helmet of the soldier in a spray of blood and brains, yet Dijon did not stop. He bounced to the side directly at another enemy soldier and he did not need to be able to see through the helmet of the enemy to know he was surprised.

Dijon's cutlass made of tempered carbon steel, courtesy of Haven Armament Works, skimmed over the edge of the raised shield but it was too slow, as the tempered carbon steel separated the enemy's head from the body.

Dijon grabbed the still falling body and braced against it as he spotted from the corner of his eye that a couple of the enemy soldiers had raised those lances. Sure enough, two loud pops and the headless body held up by Dijon jerked and Dijon cast a spell on himself, boosting his strength. "Strength Up!"

He flung the lifeless body towards the cluster of enemy soldiers before him and ducked low as he charged his cutlass gouging deeply into a soldier's shin, creating a cry out of pain. Dijon ignored the fallen soldier and instead used his bulk to slam into the shield of one enemy before him and almost gotten skewered for his efforts.

He felt a tingling sensation from the magic barrier of the shield before both he and his target crashed to the ground. He stuck his revolver under the shield and fired a shot aimed at the neck of the enemy under him and quickly rolled away from a couple of stabs.

The red clad soldiers spaced themselves out as they pointed the sharp ends of their lances at Dijon who gave a bloodthirsty smile at his enemies. He took in a deep breath and suddenly roared out, making the soldiers surrounding him step back.

"Come and meet your maker!" Dijon growled dangerously as he raised his revolver and swept it around him. "I let you see your ancestors!"

The enemy soldiers seemingly outraged by their earlier embarrassment, charged in with war cries of their own. Dijon leaped forward to welcome them, swinging and parrying with his blade. He emptied his revolver at the group of enemies, killing one and wounding another before he threw the useless weapon at a charging soldier.

He swung his blade endlessly, as the circle of enemies around him shrunk. A wound here and there appeared as he started to tire. Dijon cursed loudly, not giving up despite the odds.

"Die ya bug eyed bastards! Let me send you to your ancestors! Come and die you bastards! Die!"

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Let the rage began~ 


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neo Koh

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